NRL 2019: Fireworks mishap to be investigated after Joey Leilua's freak injury

The NRL will investigate the use of pre-match pyrotechnics after a piece of material flew into the eye of Canberra Raiders centre Joey Leilua before their qualifying final against the Melbourne Storm. 

The start of the blockbuster match was delayed as Leilua was treated on the sidelines at AAMI Park, before heading to the changing room. 

Raiders medical staff couldn't see anything at first, but then noticed a small piece of black pyrotechnic shell in the top of his eye. 

"It felt like a rock in my eye, because your eye is so delicate," Leilua told after the match. "I was thinking there had to be something in there.

"The staff kept saying 'there's nothing in there' but then finally they saw it right up the top of the eye - a little piece of ash. He checked to make sure my eyeball wasn't scratched.

"It still took a couple of attempts to get it out, but then I was good to go."

Due to the unusual circumstances the Raiders were allowed a free interchange, and Bailey Simonsson was rushed onto the field. Three minutes later, the young gun scored the opening try of the game. 

Leilua eventually made his way onto the field in the 20th minute when he replaced Nick Cotric, who suffered a sickening injury while attempting to tackle Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen.

The Raiders went onto win 12-10 thanks to a last-minute try to forward John Bateman. 

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart dismissed Leilua's incident as an "accident" at his post-match press conference.

"You can't help bad luck," Stuart said. "From every semi-final, I've seen the NRL put on they've done a wonderful job ... I wouldn't be sitting here as a winning or losing coach blaming somebody for what is an accident."

The company responsible for the display, Foti International Fireworks, said the incident was "regrettable" and the system was designed to be used in close proximity to people.

"It appears that some grit from these machines came in contact with the player's eye.

"Foti International will carry out an internal investigation to properly assess the cause."

The Raiders now have a week off and will face the winner of next weekend's semi-final between the Manly Sea Eagles and South Sydney Rabbitohs. 


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