He had a broken nose, three fractures in his cheekbone and risked a ''collapsed face'', but Western Force halfback Ian Prior refused to shirk his responsibilities against the ACT Brumbies on Friday night.
For almost 40 minutes Prior continued to put his head where it shouldn't have been to make tackles in an attempt to save the Force's finals dream. And while his team was bundled out of the competition, it will go down as one of the most courageous performances in Super Rugby history.
A battered Prior walked out of Canberra Stadium wearing an eye patch and knowing he would be unable to fly to Perth with his teammates.
It was hardly an ideal Canberra homecoming for the former Brumbies No. 9, but the only thing Prior was heartbroken about was the Force falling short of the play-offs.
The Force copped a seven-try hammering and Prior is now crashing on Brumbies fullback Jesse Mogg's couch until he's given the all-clear by medical staff to fly to Brisbane for surgery.
Add the fact that he broke his nose just a week earlier against the Queensland Reds and Prior's effort epitomises toughness.
''I knew I'd done something ... it didn't feel right. I blew my nose and a pocket of air under my eye started to fill up,'' he said.
''I knew where I was; it really hurt, but I wasn't disorientated. I just wanted to help the team get to the finals ... I battled as long as I could.
''I didn't want to go off, but the doc said it wasn't very safe. He said if I copped another knock, my whole face could collapse.''
Prior was aiming for a triumphant return against his former teammate. But it quickly turned to disaster when he tried to make a tackle on flying Brumbies playmaker Matt Toomua just five minutes into the match.
Prior copped Toomua's knee in the face. Aware that all was not good, he decided to play on and continue to stick his head in dark places to tackle rampaging Brumbies players.
''What can you do? I wanted the Force to do well so I thought I'd power on as much as I could,'' Prior said.
''I can't blow my nose, I have to try not to sneeze, and I can't fly for a few days, and then I'll have surgery next week sometime.''
Prior's former Canberra roommate, Mogg, has offered a bed while the 23-year-old is stuck in Canberra.
Force coach Michael Foley said: ''Ian broke his cheekbone in the first half ... he's not the most handsome No. 9 running around at the moment.
''But not once did he miss a tackle.''
Prior, who won a championship with the Queensland Reds in 2011 and played for the Brumbies in the grand final last year, hopes the Force can use this season – the best in the club's history – as a stepping stone to the finals in the future.
''The Brumbies played well, we were probably a bit inexperienced in that pressure,'' Prior said. ''While it's disappointing, we can look at this as a stepping stone. Where the Force were 18 months ago, I don't think they would have thought this was possible.''
The story Western Force's Ian Prior plays on with broken nose, fractured cheek against ACT Brumbies first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.