Former Knights hooker Rory Kostjasyn has revealed how a near-death experience forced him into a premature exit from the NRL.
Just two years after lifting the NRL trophy with the Cowboys, Kostjasyn will be part of this year's retiring class waving goodbye on grand final day at ANZ Stadium.
He is one of only three players from the 2015 grand final side, not including Cowboys co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, who have left the club.
Despite joining Newcastle this year on a two-year deal, Kostjasyn leaves having never played a game for the club after a career-ending throat injury in the pre-season.
The 30-year-old recalled how he received an accidental elbow from Danny Levi and was rushed to hospital by club doctor Tony Ayoub.
"The injury was swelling up so there was a real urgency. We didn't know what was going to happen," he told the PlayersVoice website.
"The hospital staff were worried that if it continued to swell I wouldn't be able to breathe at all.
“They had to be ready in case I needed an emergency tracheotomy. Thankfully that never eventuated."
Kostjasyn had two operations but continued to struggle with a lack of air supply and called it quits in July.
Six months after surgery he admits his breathing has not improved.
"It's devastating to have your career end so unexpectedly from a silly little injury at training. But I know it could be much worse and I'm extremely grateful for the career I had," he said.