Sharks prop Andrew Fifita is out of intensive care and drawing inspiration from injured triathlete Alexa Leary in his bid to return to the paddock in 2022.
Fifita is up, about and out of the ICU at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital following successful laryngeal surgery - he is expected to make a full recovery and play rugby league again.
The veteran forward met with Leary, the Noosa triathlete hospitalised for over a month by a life-threatening bike crash in July, over the weekend while the pair are both recovering in hospital.
Fifita's Instagram post of the meeting by Leary's bedside are his first comments since being rushed to hospital last Sunday when he struggled to breathe after full-time, with the 32-year-old saying Leary's perseverance has put his own injury in perspective.
"If you were thinking I had a bad couple of weeks everyone has to go on and follow Lex," Fifita wrote.
"Lex has a bigger battle then me. Made me feel how good life is today. Thank you for being my Grateful of the week.
"You taught me a lot by being in your presence. I'll forever remember that moment."
Leary suffered major injuries and fractures to her scapula, shoulder blade, wrist and ribs, a collapsed lung and significant nerve damage, as well as a severe head injury when she was clipped by a car while training last month.
She celebrated her 20th birthday last week in hospital after multiple weeks in an induced coma, with friends and family launching the Move For Lex campaign in her honour.
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Fifita's recovery continues in hospital with his wife Nikki by his side as Cronulla football manager Darren Mooney indicated Fifita is expected to play again once his recovery is complete.
"I was with the surgeons when they gave the news to Nikki and there's no reason why he won't make a full recovery to play rugby league again," Mooney told 2GB.
"He's going well and is overwhelmed by the support from everyone in the rugby league community, as is his wife Nikki.
"The operation was a real success and the surgeons expect him to make a full recovery. Hopefully [Fifita] is out of hospital as soon as he can after that."
Storm opponent Tom Eisenhuth has made a successful comeback from the same fractured larynx Fifita suffered, while Cronulla teammate Jack A Williams is also back playing again after he was also placed in an induced coma earlier this year due to a throat injury picked up in a pre-season trial match,
Fifita has one year remaining on his Sharks contract but has struggled for game time in recent seasons with chronic knee injuries limiting his availability.
Cronulla captain Wade Graham has also confirmed he won't play again this year after repeated concussions, but he too will target an NRL return under incoming coach Craig Fitzgibbon this season.
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Winger Ronaldo Mulitalo joins big names Graham, Fifita, Shaun Johnson (hamstring) in the club's long-term casualty ward after scans confirmed a broken jaw for the flyer on Sunday.
Mawene Hiroti is at least expected back from a broken hand for next Saturday's clash with Brisbane, while veteran centre Will Chambers is another replacement option out wide.
Prop Aiden Tolman also returns from suspension in round 24 to help shore up a top-eight spot secured by Saturday's thumping of Wests Tigers.