Sharks legend Paul Gallen has admitted news of ex-teammate Andrew Fifita's injury scare was "hard to take", while revealing the heroic role a doctor played in getting the NRL star to hospital on time as he struggled to breathe.
Fifita underwent surgery to repair a fractured larynx on Tuesday, after he was rushed to hospital on the advice of the doctors on hand at the Moreton Daily Stadium following the Sharks' clash against the Knights on Sunday afternoon.
Upon arrival at hospital, Fifita was placed in an induced coma to assist with breathing, made more difficult due to the extensive swelling of the larynx that had taken place.
According to Gallen, teammates noticed Fifita's voice gradually deteriorating throughout the second half of the match, as the 32-year-old continued to yell and pleaded to be put back on the field while sitting on the bench after coming off in the 46th minute.
Incredibly, a club doctor had suspected Fifita had injured his larynx and told the Sharks star to go to hospital, only to be waved off by the player himself before his condition soon worsened.
"He came back and spoke to Andrew and said, 'Mate, you need to go to hospital', and Andrew being Andrew said, 'Not a chance, what are you talking about? There's nothing wrong with me'," Gallen told 2GB's Wide World of Sports Radio.
"Within minutes he'd had a shower and come back out and he started to feel like it had swollen up.
"They basically said, 'You need to go to hospital right now', that was when they walked him out of the changerooms and started treating him. It very, very quickly turned very, very bad.
"He's going to have to owe those doctors a beer, that's for sure, the first one in particular who realised something may be wrong. He asked Andrew, 'Can you breathe okay?', and he was okay at that point in time.
"It happened very, very quickly after that, so without a doubt he's got a big thank you to that doctor for realising what had happened."
Gallen said Fifita's loved ones held grave concerns for his wellbeing when his condition continued to deteriorate in the ambulance ride to the nearby Royal Brisbane Hospital.
"It was touch-and-go there for a moment," he said.
"I spoke to a couple of guys who were with him last night on the way to the hospital and there were some concerning moments where he was really, really concerned for himself. You can imagine it would be so scary to feel like you're suffocating.
"The hospital ride in the ambulance was apparently really, really scary, that's when things started to go really bad."
Gallen said his old teammate was particularly lucky that coach Josh Hannay opted against putting him back on the park in the latter periods of the match.
"He's just so lucky he wasn't placed back on that field," he said.
"Had he been needed to go back on he may have copped another shot and it could've been even worse."
Cronulla confirmed that the New South Wales and Tonga representative was in a "stable condition" in a statement on Monday night. He is expected to require an extended period of recovery post-surgery.