Straight away Brent Tate feared the worst.
Still, the Queensland veteran winger bravely refused to be taken off on a medicab despite suffering a career-threatening fourth serious knee injury.
The way Tate saw it, if this was potentially his last game he was going to leave on his terms.
“He was in a lot of pain. But he didn’t want the medicab,” Queensland doctor Roy Saunders said.
The heartache over NSW ending the Maroons’ record eight year State of Origin reign in game two on Wednesday night was put into perspective for teammates after seeing a distraught Tate in the post-match sheds.
Unimpressed by Blues supporters booing Tate as he was helped from the field after falling awkwardly in a second half tackle, Queensland teammates were further shattered when it appeared their worst fears were confirmed.
“I felt the pop and it probably hurt more than the other ones which is a bit strange,” Tate said.
“I definitely knew from the get go that (a torn ACL) was the case.”
Tate, 32, will now consider his future when he returns to NRL club North Queensland, where he is contracted until the end of 2015.
“There’s a whole heap of emotions at the moment,” Tate said.
“It’s time to take a big, deep breath and see where we end up from here I guess.”
On a nightmare night for the Cowboys, they have also lost prop Matt Scott (facial fracture) who remained in Sydney to undergo surgery on Thursday evening.
He won’t return to Townsville until the weekend and is considered highly doubtful for Origin III in three weeks.
Watching Tate make the brave call to knock back the medicab and endure the painful off-field journey convinced some teammates that he could make yet another comeback.
“That summed up the guy’s character,” Queensland forward Nate Myles said.
NSW and Cowboys prop James Tamou added: “I hope that’s not his last. I think he’ll come back and I hope he comes back.” Queensland’s mounting injury list for the series already included Cooper Cronk (broken arm), Josh Papalii (ankle) and Corey Parker (facial fracture).
And Daly Cherry-Evans (knee), Greg Inglis (ankle) and Billy Slater (shoulder) only played on Wednesday night after late fitness tests.