Josh Mansour sat in his surgeon's office days after his horrific round-six head injury and was presented with two courses of action to repair his shattered face.
Option one involved making four small incisions through which the surgeon could gain access to what resembled a "jigsaw puzzle" of splintered bone beneath the skin.
The alternative was to slice his face open and peel it back for more convenient access to the jumbled mess beneath, which had crumbled when Gold Coast winger Anthony Don's knee accidentally collided with Mansour in a moment that could have ended the Penrith winger's career.
Unsurprisingly, Mansour opted for the surgeon's initial suggestion.
"Option B was a big operation, to peel my face forward and I didn't want that. I didn't want to live with a massive scar across my face so we ended up going for the first option," Mansour told Fairfax Media.
"It's brutal, [it would have required] a cut from the bottom of my left ear, up and under across to my opposite ear and they peel it forward. Like the movie Face/Off.
"The one I went with they cut where my temple is, one incision there, one in my eye crease, one under it and also one inside my mouth.
"I've never been so anxious and scared in my entire life. I felt like I was going into the world of the unknown. I didn't know what to expect. I knew how bad it was but I didn't know how everything was going to go after the surgery."
Mansour's seven-hour operation was a success and after recently penning a three-year extension at the foot of the mountains, the 27-year-old is now targeting a miraculous return to the field in round 19.
He resumed light training last week, although still isn't allowed to lift heavy weights due to the strain it would put on his healing face.
Penrith is scheduled to play Brisbane in round 19 on July 20, which gives Mansour about a six-week mini pre-season to get himself fully fit. That would be just over three months after suffering the facial injury.
During that time Mansour has also undergone long-overdue ankle surgery, to fix his deltoid ligament which had been ripped off, to remove a piece of bone as big as a thumb floating around in the joint, and to shave back the bone spurs he had developed.
But that was all a breeze compared with the reconstruction of his face.
"I just had depressed fractures everywhere and all those fractures were actually shattered bone," the bearded Mansour said while promoting a partnership with grooming brand Braun.
"The hardest part was soaking it all in when the surgeon had to tell me what was wrong, what were the risks involved during the surgery and after it. It was a very, very scary moment in my life.
"They compared me to a woman who ended up getting a ball to the face and her fracture itself was one centimetre and a half more dented than me and she died. I really consider myself extremely lucky. I don't think anyone understands just how bad it was. I could have lost my eye from the actual impact itself and from the surgery.
"They might have had to graft a piece of bone from my hip to replace in my face because there was so much shattered bone but the surgeon was really good. He didn't need to take any bone from there. He salvaged whatever he could and put my face back together pretty much."
While recovering from the most harrowing injury of his life, Mansour's spirits have been lifted by Penrith's recent form.
"I'm not going to complain … we are sitting top of the ladder but there's still a lot of work to be done," Mansour said.
"We've still got a lot of tough games ahead of ourselves and those games are really going to test us and see where we're really at.
"Last year we were premiership favourites at the beginning of the year and we had a disastrous start. We don't want to really get carried away and think too far ahead."
James Buckley writes on AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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