Michael Chee Kam was out before he hit the ground. And only regained consciousness in the back of the ambulance on his way to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle.
The miraculous return of Chee Kam to play 80 minutes for Wests Tigers against North Queensland on Thursday night, six days after being knocked senseless by Knights superstar Kalyn Ponga, was the forgotten story as favourite son Robbie Farah stole the show in the Tigers’ big win.
Chee Kam told The Sun-Herald he surprised himself with how well he recovered from his first serious head knock, especially with all the recent publicity surrounding concussions, and recalled the moment he awoke after the collision.
"I remember being in the back of the ambulance and asking my wife [Alex] who was next to me, ‘Did we win?’,’’ Chee Kam said.
"I must have asked her about four times. I remember most of the game, but I can’t remember the actual hit. I got out of hospital about 2.30am, got back to the hotel at 3am and had to stay awake until about 5am.
"I had the X-rays and scans and everything was OK. The doc was surprised because I should have been getting chronic headaches with such a big hit. But there were no headaches or any drowsiness.
“It was weird. Obviously it’s such a big thing with my brain and if I was worried at any time I’d tell the truth how I was feeling. But I didn’t feel anything. Looking at the tackle, too, it was crazy how quickly I recovered.”
Chee Kam has watched replays of the hit – for which Ponga was given 10 minutes in the sin bin, but later escaped sanction from the match review committee – and he has no issues with it.
He was impressed Ponga messaged him straight after the game to check on his welfare.
“He sent me a message and said how he didn’t care about the game and was only thinking about me and hoped I was all good,” Chee Kam said. “He’s a good bloke. There was no malice from him. We were both competing for the ball, and it’s a contact sport.”
Under the game’s concussion rules, Chee Kam was only required to sit out six days before he could return to the playing field, provided he passed all the protocols. He met with the NRL’s chief medico on Tuesday and was given the green light.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire never pressured him to play and told Chee Kam he only wanted him to suit up at Leichhardt if he had 100 per cent faith in his fitness.
Chee Kam produced 80 minutes and made 42 tackles on the Tigers’ right edge.
Benji Marshall defended outside Chee Kam and was impressed by his brave comeback.
“I thought he was great,” Marshall said. “It was a tough assignment marking up on the Cowboys’ strong left edge and he did a good job next to me. The talk was good and there were no signs he was struggling.”
Meanwhile, Marshall expects no love from his brother Jeremy Marshall-King when the Tigers try to keep their finals hopes alive against Canterbury on Saturday. While the pair were due to celebrate their twin nieces’ birthdays on Friday, the contact will be minimal for the remainder of the week.
"He’s not my brother this week,’’ Benji quipped.