WHEN Grafton Ghosts back-rower Aaron Hartmann collapsed to the ground in agony last Sunday while playing against Kyogle, there was a deafening silence in the crowd.
While the Ghosts were running in another four-pointer against the Turkeys, Hartmann lay motionless in back play. And the concern on the faces of Ghosts supporters was clearly evident.
The champion forward eventually got to his feet, allaying any fears he had suffered a serious neck or back injury.
As Hartmann was escorted to the changng rooms by two Ghosts training staff and later into an ambulance, the devastation on his face was only too clear.
It's every footballer's nightmare, wondering if he has received a serious injury and if his season may have come to an abrupt end.
Thankfully for Hartmann and the Ghosts, the doctor's report was better than many expected.
"I had scans and although the news is not great, it's not as bad as I first thought," Hartmann told the Examiner on Monday as he was released from hospital.
"It looks like I have a bulging disc so I won't be rushing back to play. It's still very painful so I'll need plenty of rest."
Hartmann admitted after he received the knock to his lower back midway through the first half, his first thoughts were to get to his feet.
"It's the first time something like that has happened to me and it was a bit scary," he said.
"I heard a loud crunching sound in my back and all I wanted to do after it happened was to get up and start walking, but I was in a lot of pain and discomfort."
It will be a huge blow for the defending premiers if their star back-rower is out for the remainder of the NRRRL season as his early season form has been outstanding.
Thankfully, the Ghosts have plenty of back-up, but replacing arguably the best player in the NRRRL won't be easy.
Along with teammate and Ghosts captain/coach Ryan Farrell, Hartmann was recently selected in the NRRRL senior representative side.
But with their first game set down for next month, it will be a race against the clock for Hartmann to be fit in time.