THE surgeon took one look at Kieran Foran's mangled hands and delivered the worst-case scenario. Six years ago, aged 15, the Manly five-eighth was told he may never play football again.
Tough break: Manly Sea Eagle Keiran Foran pictured in 2006. Source: The Sunday Telegraph
During a session of squat exercises at the gym, Foran lost control of a 100kg weight.
It turned ugly: Four broken fingers, both index and middle on either hand, bones sticking out of his other fingers, micro-surgery, pins, screws and plates.
You can still see the scars. They were there after last Friday night's victory over Brisbane, when Foran used those same hands to pluck a towering Daly Cherry-Evans bomb out of Gerard Beale's grasp and score a pivotal try.
The incision marks between the knuckles on the top of his hands hide the story of a time when he could not even brush his own teeth.
"I just went to the gym one afternoon and whacked a bit of weight on the squat bar and I was getting pretty fatigued," Foran said.
"Then the bar just slipped off my back. I should have just let it drop onto the safety bars, but my natural reaction was to turn around and try to stop it.
"There was a good 100kg on there and my hands just got caught in between the safety bars and the barbell.
"It was a bit nasty. There were a couple of fingers where the bones were just coming out the side and they were pretty cut up and broken.
"I went into surgery a couple of hours later and they put pins, screws and plates in them just to help reposition the knuckles.
"It was a pretty tough time. I was only 15 and it was a pretty bad injury to have to go through at that age."
After a month of being in plaster up to both elbows and unable to use either hand, Foran graduated to special protective guards.
Initially, the doctors told him he would be lucky to pass a football properly or have full movement in the fingers.
If he was going to return to rugby league, they wanted him to wear specially-designed gloves to guard against further damage.
Foran wanted none of it - instead, he focused on his seven-month rehabilitation.
He attended physiotherapy sessions four and five times a week for four months, constantly trying to strengthen his fingers.
At high school at Marist North Shore in Sydney, his brother Liam shadowed his every move. At night and every morning, he brushed his brother's teeth for him.
"I remember he had a foam ball that he used to carry around with him all day during school just to try to get the movement back in his fingers," Liam Foran said.
"To start with he struggled to do anything. He couldn't clean his teeth, it was a hard time.
"He did so much rehab and he was so determined he actually got back before the time that was set.
"Every now and then he notices it; when it's cold weather he gets a bit of stiffness in the fingers.
"But you never hear him complaining about anything. He's as tough as nails. He just gets up and does it."
Given what Foran has achieved in four seasons in the NRL, it should come as no surprise.
A Kiwi Test player at 18, he is now about to play in a grand final next Sunday at 21. Six years after the doctors told him it would take a "miracle" for him to return to rugby league.
"When I came out of the operation, they weren't guaranteeing anything at all," Foran said. "They said it would probably take a couple of years to get all the movement back ... if I got it back at all. When I went and saw them four months later they were amazed."