Parramatta Eels star Corey Norman feared his career was over after opening-round neck scare

Corey Norman uses his mobile phone in the dressing room while the game is still live. Photo: Nine NRL Power Rankings: Round 1NRL Team of the WeekNRL Previews: Round 2
Nanjing Night Net

For a split second, Corey Norman thought his career might have been over.

Hurdling a teammate then hurtling head first for the Parramatta Stadium turf, the Eels star feared all the ongoing contract talk he had been through was pointless when there was a chance he might not get back on the field.

“I was saying to the boys, ‘that could have been me’,” Norman said. “It could have been my career over and I was done.

“I was just jumping over ‘Takas’ [centre Brad Takairangi] and my hands were caught and as you saw I was going down head first. I kind of blanked out and then came to it. I checked my feet to make sure I could move and everything and then I was all right.

“You never know how it’s going to pan out and if I tuck my neck a bit more it could have happened. You definitely think about [career-ending injuries].

“[The Alex McKinnon tackle] was such a horrible incident to happen and anything to happen with the neck … people are going to think of Alex. Like I said I’m very thankful it didn’t happen.”

Miraculously on Saturday night, Norman will stride over the same blades of grass where Josh McGuire’s awkward, but legal tackle had friends and family collectively holding their breath nine days earlier.

The dressing room “phone-gate” – “I thought it was a bit over the top … I was getting a few texts seeing how I was and I was just letting everyone know” – is done after Channel Nine cameras filmed Norman telling concerned relatives he was OK after being replaced at half-time.

And the neck scare will be consigned to the same memory bin after dispelling any further fears by watching a replay of the incident.

“When I play this week I’ll just be playing like nothing has happened,” Norman said. “I haven’t seen something like that for a while and I’m hoping it doesn’t happen again.”

Perhaps Norman’s teammate Nathan Peats could best understand the fragility of the off-contract star’s mind having played 36 minutes of a match last year with a fractured neck.

“Lucky he sort of landed on his face and skidded out rather than his head getting rolled under,” Peats said. “It couldn’t have been worse and thankfully it wasn’t.

“[Norman] has been good for us ever since he’s signed for Parra. I think this year is going to be his best year.”

It will certainly be Parramatta’s best halves pairing in a while as marquee man Kieran Foran makes his belated debut against Johnathan Thurston’s premiers, who staged the third-biggest comeback in NRL history coming from 24 points down in the corresponding fixture in 2015.

North Queensland piled on five tries in the space of 12 minutes in that match with Gavin Cooper bagging a six-minute hat-trick for their 10th straight win.

“I wish I didn’t [play that game],” Norman said. “It was [a feeling of] embarrassment. I guess you’re pissed off as well how we let that go.

“I’m sure the boys won’t let that happen again. It was a long time ago and we’ve just got to worry about how they’ve played in the last couple of weeks.

“She’s your standard Cowboys and you know what you’re going to get: they’re going to be playing for 80 minutes and there’s quality across the park.”​

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