Australian rugby league history books will need to be rewritten following the Parramatta Eels monster victory over the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL’s second elimination final on Sunday afternoon. Here are my talking points from the game.
Kaysa Pritchard may have played just 47 games in six seasons, but it was enough to forge a reputation for having no regard for his body.
And the kamikaze hooker has the scars to prove it.
“I’ve had two surgeries on my shoulder, two on my chest, two on my knee, two on my ankles … and endless physiotherapy,” Pritchard tells AAP.
“I was in there all the time. But each time I managed to get back on the horse.”
Until one day he couldn’t.
When Pritchard was granted indefinite leave by Parramatta in February, most assumed it was because of last year’s season-ending shoulder reconstruction.
But as the Eels prepare to farewell him prior to Saturday’s home game against Brisbane, Pritchard has revealed the real reason behind his early retirement.
And it was the lowest of all blows.
“It was on May 5th last year. It was actually my birthday,” Pritchard recalls.
The younger brother of former Penrith and Canterbury star Frank went in to make a routine tackle on a Cronulla player early in their round-nine clash.
He reeled out of the collision, believing he copped a knee to the stomach.
Four hours later he was booked in for emergency surgery, but any fears were allayed when the surgeon told him he could be back within two weeks.
“Sweet, I’ll be back next week,” Pritchard replied before going under the knife.
When he woke up at three o’clock the following afternoon, Pritchard was given the news that would change his life.
“One of your testicles were fully crushed, we couldn’t repair it’,” the surgeon said.
“I don’t know how you kept playing.”
Not only was his rugby league future in doubt, but so too his shot at being a dad.
Weeks of tests followed at an IVF clinic, where he was told a normal sperm count was 37 million per millilitre. Ten million, specialists said, was low.
“My one was 100,000,” Pritchard says.
“They were telling me I couldn’t have kids naturally.
“I was like, ‘What the f***’. My heart dropped. Every other injury I’ve had, I’ve always said I’ll get back on the horse.
“Get injured? It’s alright. Have a bit of a sook, but I know I’ll be sweet. Get back, fix it up, smash my rehab, and get back on the field, all good.
“This one changed me.”
As the weeks went on and Pritchard slowly on the mend, his partner Tiffany questioned whether he wanted to give it one final crack.
“This is what you do, what you love. This is you. You’re tough,” she told him.
He scored a try in his comeback game against Canterbury, before his shoulder gave way early the following week against South Sydney.
And while the stubborn Pritchard refused to give up, his mind eventually would.
Where once he showed no regard for his body, the 25-year-old now wanted to protect what he hopes will become a future family.
He is currently training to be a crane operator while also studying carpentry with ten Eels teammates.
“I had to weigh up my options. When I came back after Christmas, I told (coach Brad Arthur) that I needed time away,” Pritchard said.
“I play with my heart on my sleeve. I didn’t care about my body, you know. I tried to smash into everyone and win for the boys.
“But if I got hit again, I would never have kids at all. I’m still lucky. I can’t have kids naturally, but I can have kids through IVF.”