Penrith prop Spencer Leniu has admitted he saw red after being hit high by Taane Milne, fearing he would be ruled out of a second grand final in Sydney.
Leniu has recovered well from the hammering he copped from Milne in Saturday night's win over South Sydney, and is a near-certainty to run out in Sunday's decider.
But the 22-year-old was not always so confident he would be able to face Parramatta.
Hit hard by Milne's swinging arm after making a bust, a furious Leniu attempted to continue a fight with the Rabbitohs winger as he was sent from the field.
Eventually Leniu was subdued by Panthers staff, with coach Ivan Cleary joking afterwards it was probably a good thing he was not allowed back on the field.
"My initial frustration was just the thought of me are missing out on this week," Leniu told AAP.
"That was my initial frustration but obviously I've been cleared to play now.
"I'd just came back on from my from my first HIA (Head Injury Assessment). So I think that was a lot of frustration.
"I'd literally just came on and then had a run and then I was going off for another HIA. So I 100 per cent (saw red)."
Leniu said he had not heard from Milne since the hit, but was insistent there was no hard feelings for the Souths flyer and he did no need to hear an apology.
But his fear of missing a grand final was well founded.
A member of Penrith's bench in 2020, Leniu fell out of Ivan Cleary's team for the preliminary final that year after informing the club he had minor flu symptoms.
In the height of COVID he was quarantined and isolated, before eventually testing positive to rhinovirus.
"It was the first year of COVID and I just had a little sniffle on the Monday," Leniu said.
"It wasn't anything bad, but I just messaged them just in case that 'I am not feeling the best'.
"Obviously that ruled me out, not being able to train with the team. And then that ruined my chances of being able to play in the grand final."
He then featured in last year's grand-final win in Brisbane, but COVID restrictions meant no family or friends were able to attend and any celebrating was done via FaceTime.
That left this Sunday as his family's first chance to watch him in a grand final after three years in the NRL's most dominant team.
"Having my parents and my family there to support me will be a big thing," Leniu said.
"It's going to be a whole different beast having them there.
"Then there is the crowd with it being the battle of the west. We haven't had that either in Sydney or Brisbane with COVID."
Australian Associated Press
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