Injured Panthers prop Viliame Kikau feared his season was over before it even began after lasting just three minutes against South Sydney in the club's first trial game.
Kikau was twisted awkwardly in a three-man legal tackle but was later cleared of any ACL damage, bringing a sigh of relief to those at the foot of the mountains.
But the Fijian native, one of the most damaging forwards in the game, is still expected to be sidelined for six weeks with medial ligament damage.
"It was very painful," Kikau said at Crawford Public School, where the Panthers held a skills clinic with students in Doonside on Monday.
"They asked if I heard a pop, it was more a snap feeling. I could feel a rip in my medial there. I knew straight away that something was wrong.
"I fell awkwardly and as soon as I stood up I did my best to play the ball. Because it was muddy my boots stuck in the ground, third man tackle just came around and slid down.
"I had four trainers to carry 120 kilos. Even if it's not season ending, any injury goes into your head and you think of the hard yards you've done in the off-season."
Kikau is hoping for a return to the field in round four when the Panthers host the Wests Tigers in a clash that will be overshadowed by Ivan Cleary's battle with his former club.
"I'm out for six weeks total so pushing for round four," he said.
"Running by round two and I have two weeks of running. I had a good pre-season under my belt. Maybe a bit back on my fitness now. I played three minutes so I didn't have a gauge of where I was."
Panthers winger Josh Mansour said Kikau would be missed in the early rounds.
"He's got so much skill for a big man, it's just frightening," Mansour said.
"Being a halfback and having him at running at you, you'd be thinking twice. He's a big loss and has got this injury at the worst possible time but no doubt he'll be working to get back as soon as he can.
"We don't want to rush him, he's a main player in our group."