Former NRL Cowboy’s near-death experience

North Queensland premiership-winner 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 who will wave goodbye on grand final day at ANZ Stadium.

He is one of just three players from the 2015 grand-final winning 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 departs having never played a game for the club after suffering a career-ending throat injury in the pre-season.

The 30-year-old recalled how an innocuous tackle during training resulted in him panicking over a sudden lack of breath resulting in him and 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. Tony drove me to emergency,” Kostjasyn 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 spent an entire day in intensive care, before having to wait two weeks before undergoing his first procedure.

A second operation followed a month later and the former Melbourne utility circled a Knights debut in round six, however he continued to struggle with a lack of air supply.

It wasn’t until another specialist appointment two months on that Kostjasyn came to grips with the reality that his career was over.

He retired in July.

Six months after the surgery and Kostjasyn admits his breathing hasn’t 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.

Kostjasyn, who also played three seasons with the Storm before moving to Townsville, finishes with 127 games in seven seasons in the NRL.

He has also taken an offer to help oversee the elite pathways at the Knights alongside former halfback Scott Dureau, which includes coaching the Harold Matthews team.

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