Players, fans and commentators were startled by terrifying scenes that stopped the game for more than five minutes.
Terrifying scenes floored fans and commentators in the Cronulla Sharks’ 18-6 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs at Commbank Stadium after debutant Declan Casey was punched.
In appalling conditions, the Sharks had just scored their second attempt to retake the lead when the terrifying scenes happened.
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The Bulldogs’ kick-off was returned by Andrew Fifita of the Sharks, who turned the clock back with a stampede.
The 22-year-old debutant was chasing hard and doing everything he had to do but got the most out of the run and was knocked out before hitting the ground in terrifying scenes.
Sharks players were the first to get to Casey as the game was quickly halted and medical attention was brought to the field.
Steve Roach said it was “the way you run the ball back from a kick after you score a try”.
But there was obvious concern for Casey on the grass.
“He’s a tough guy to handle, Andrew Fifita,” Roach told Fox Sports.
“There was no lack of courage from the young guy – I know he made a few mistakes in this game – but you put yourself against a man who attacks like that in Fifita, an experienced player, he’s been around for a long time. He knows how to use his body well.
“You feel for the young guy. What a brave effort.”
There was no sign of illegality, but the medicab was immediately summoned.
The match stopped for about five minutes when he was taken off the field in the terrifying scenes.
Code Sports’ Lachlan McKirdy tweeted: “There was great concern about Declan Casey after he fell awkwardly after attempting a tackle on Andrew Fifita.
“Shoutout to Fifita who was around the debutant the whole time and reached out to check on him after he was on the medicab.”
Rayane Tamer of SBS wrote: “Bulldogs rookie Declan Casey, knocked unconscious after facing anger at an attempted tackle by Andrew Fifita. His debut was horribly cut short and was taken off the field on a stretcher.”
Wilson Smith of the Daily Telegraph added: “Ah man Casey, that’s so rough, bad luck on the debut”.
ABC Sport called the scene “just terrifying” and “frightening stuff”.
The Sharks and Bulldogs social media teams also shared their support for the youngster.
About 10 minutes later, Fox Sports sideline reporter Lara Pitt said Casey was able to get off the medicab of his own accord.
“Glad to report that I just saw rookie Declan Casey get up from the medicab in the tunnel and walk to the barns with his family right behind him,” she said.
“Bulldogs medical staff are watching closely after that nasty headbutt, but the news is he’s back on his feet.”
It was a debut to completely forget for Casey after the sky came crashing down at Commbank Stadium.
There was so much water on the surface that the lights bounced off the surface of large puddles all over the playing surface.
But as the Bulldogs defended to chase the Sharks away again and again, Cronulla did enough to take the two points.