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Brotherly rivalry on hold: Blayke now nurse instead of Jayden's opponent

It was supposed to be the first chapter of a family rivalry nine months in the making.

But the Brailey brothers' Saturday afternoon last weekend, where they were supposed to face off against each other at 3pm, turned out nothing like it had been planned. 

As news of the competition's suspension filtered through to the players last week, Knights hooker Jayden Brailey had other things on his mind.

The 23-year-old had just received the gut-wrenching news he'd torn his ACL in a routine scoot out of dummy-half against the Wests Tigers, not that he was aware of it at the time.

Brailey played on despite repeated tests from club physios and doctors during and after half-time.

"I heard something go but just ran it off, they all seemed to be happy with it and so was I," Brailey told

Knights hooker Jayden Brailey tore his ACL against the Tigers in round two.
Knights hooker Jayden Brailey tore his ACL against the Tigers in round two. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

"It wasn't that sore but when I went out in the second half for the first 20 minutes my knee kept buckling and gave way.

"I just kept pushing through it but thought shit, something's not right. I didn't expect it to be what it turned out to be and was happy to keep playing."

Brailey hopped on the team bus and headed back to Newcastle on the Sunday night after a stirring 80-minute performance.

The former Shark agreed to get scans as a precaution as he turned his attention toward his expected battle with brother Blayke and former club Cronulla pencilled in for six days later in Kogarah.

"My knee blew up a fair bit the next day and my range wasn't too good so I could tell on my physio's face he was a bit worried," Brailey said.

"He said he would call me but I never heard from him all day. He texted me to come in and get a brace on and he'll explain more. My heart sank then, I thought you're kidding, if he's not telling me over the phone it must've been bad.

"I was so upset but I've come to grips with it now."

Brailey reached out to his family first, including Blayke, to deliver the bad news, but his stress only grew larger when Australian Prime Minster Scott Morrison announced a plan to ban all non-essential surgeries at hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic.

I was so upset but I've come to grips with it now.

Jayden Brailey

It left the Knights with less than 48 hours to get Brailey in for surgery, a task they managed to complete with the gutsy rake making the dash to Sydney in time.

"That was a very stressful day, I was losing it," Brailey said.

"If I couldn't get booked in I would've had to have waited a couple of months, maybe even more. I was so relieved, I got the surgeon I wanted and it couldn't have worked out any better."

Brailey's father Glenn dropped him off in front of the hospital with regulations preventing any family members from walking in with him, even if it was just to reception.

But they were quick to welcome him back into their family home in Cronulla and support his physical and emotional needs.

For Blayke - who has two games into living his dream of being Cronulla's starting rake after Jayden switched to Newcastle - he went from planning to battle his older brother on the park to helping him for days after he went under the knife.

"I've been telling him the whole time he's dodged a bullet because I was coming after him," Jayden joked.

Inside the home gym of Lachlan Fitzgibbon

"It's been a weird time and when the season comes back we'll probably be the first team to play them but yeah, I was looking forward to it and copping an ear bashing from my old teammates.

"I'm sure down the track we'll have a few battles. My younger brother Taj has been the same and my girlfriend as well, everyone has been helping me out. I haven't been short of nurses at home."

If players like Brailey can take one positive light out of the NRL suspension, it's that they remain a chance to get back on the field later in the year.

Although he faces up to nine months out, a return in a potential December finals series could be on the cards.

"All this stuff about the competition has distracted me, it definitely does soften the blow, I won't lie, it's helped a lot," Brailey said.

"My biggest battle with this is mentally. I hate sitting out of games, I bloody hate it, but I would be feeling a lot worse and off it if I saw the boys training and playing every week.

"In saying that I don't want the season to be cancelled, I want the boys to get back on the field and do well but it has eased the mind for the moment that everyone is sitting at home.

"If I can get back this year it will be great and that's something keeping me sane and to aim for.

"But I'm in no rush either, I want to make sure I nail my rehab as best I can. I never want to go through this again."

Jayden Brailey passes during the win over the Wests Tigers.
Jayden Brailey passes during the win over the Wests Tigers. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Newcastle's 2-0 start to the year under new coach Adam O'Brien offered Knights fans a glimmer of hope their six-year finals drought may end.

"We've played well and for it to come to a complete stop it's an empty feeling and to think all that work could be for nothing it's weird," Brailey said.

"It's disappointing because I've felt we've had such good preparation this season and I've had a ball being a player under Adam.

"I've felt so comfortable in the squad that we have and I think everyone got a glimpse of that in the first couple of games.

"But Adam has drilled into us that it will come back at some stage and we've got to remain professional and not let those wins go to waste because it could be the difference."