North Queensland prop Shaun Fensom has been hospitalised after suffering a suspected broken leg in North Queensland's NRL grand final loss to Melbourne.
Fensom was taken from the field in a medicab in just the third minute after a sickening collision with teammate Ethan Lowe.
"From what I've heard he's got a broken leg," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
The incident reduced the Cowboys to just three men on the bench and threw their forward rotation into disarray.
"Being a man down after three minutes puts you under a lot of pressure," Green said.
"You're down to 16 men and seven interchanges. It does put a lot of pressure on you."
After Melbourne prop Jesse Bromwich made a break through the middle of the field, Fensom tried to make a covering tackle but was injured in the process.
Lowe's body was slung around with his legs striking Fensom on his lower left leg.
Play was held up for 10 minutes as Fensom was attended to by medical staff and given pain killers.
The former Canberra forward, who joined the Cowboys in the pre-season, gave a thumbs up to the crowd as he was taken from the field.
Fensom, wearing the number 17 jersey, was a late addition to the Cowboys starting side for John Asiata.
Injuries by the bucketload sum up gutsy Cowboys
The incident effectively summed up the Cowboys' luck, but while the history books will show North Queensland finished runners up, it won't detract from a sensational NRL season.
In the wake of the grand final flogging at the hands of the Storm, coach Green revealed much of their squad had been playing injured throughout the finals.
Green's side will go down as one of the gutsiest in the history of the game after shrugging off the season-ending injuries of co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott to make it to the first Sunday in October.
While the league community has marvelled at their against-the-odds charge through the finals, none outside the club were aware of just how resilient they were forced to be.
Prop Scott Bolton, who has stepped up in Scott's absence, played through the pain of a broken sternum and had been receiving up to four painkilling injections before every game.
His front-row partner John Asiata has been playing with a broken hand and is been booked in for surgery on Wednesday.
"Some of the things that the guys have played through, has been nothing short of remarkable. If I single anyone out it probably doesn't do anyone justice," Green said.
"But John Asiata — broken hand, Kyle Feldt tore his groin last week. Te Maire Martin probably should have been out, he had a grade two medial.
"He probably should have been out for four to six weeks, he missed one game. Coops [skipper Gavin Cooper] here with his calf.
"Scott Bolton, who has been outstanding, has been playing busted. He's afraid of needles too, which is surprising for a pig-hunting fisherman."
Bolton revealed he had been playing with the pain since mid-July and had been receiving four needles in his chest since then but only required two the last two weeks.
"I was probably worse heading into the finals," Bolton said.
"I've been injected since [round 19] when we played against Souths in Cairns.
"It probably started getting better towards the end of the finals series.
"There are a lot of blokes in that position around this time. Especially through the finals series, and putting really good performances in, which gave us a lot of inspiration."
Asiata said everyone's willingness to push through the pain threshold was a sign of what the club meant to the playing group.
"It just shows how much it means to each other, to be able to be there for their mate no matter what happens on the field," Asiata said.
"No matter what kind of injury they have, they still make that effort to be the best they can be."