‘I thought I was going to shut down the NRL’
For over 12 anxiety-riddled hours Cronulla star Bronson Xerri feared he would bring down the NRL when the centre became the first NRL player to be tested for COVID-19.
As the severity of the coronavirus pandemic gripped the world and 10 days before the season was suspended, Xerri woke up feeling so sick on March 13 he thought he had the virus.
"It was at the start of coronavirus when it was getting big. I remember calling my doctor saying 'what do I do?'," Xerri said.
"It was the worst I had ever been. I couldn't get out of bed, I was shaking. He said 'you have to go get tested'."
That phone call triggered one of the most stressful days of Xerri's life as he waited for the results of the test that he feared would shut down the competition after only three games in round one.
"As soon as I got off the phone with the doctor, I went straight to the hospital and got tested. We couldn't do anything about it and we just have to wait for the results. I got the results at 12 o'clock that night. I waited up that night to get that result to hear it was negative," he said.
"I thought I was going to shutdown the whole NRL."
The 19-year-old will make his first appearance this season against the Wests Tigers on Saturday after recovering from a shoulder injury and Michael Maguire's team should be on guard because the electrifying Xerri said he was coming back faster than ever.
Xerri was already one of the quickest players in the game - he clocked 34.5km/h in his debut chasing down Parramatta's Clint Gutherson - now has Melbourne's Josh Addo-Carr in his sights.
Last year, News Corp Australia revealed via the Telstra Tracker that Addo-Carr is the fastest player in the NRL, hitting a top speed of 38.5km/h.
Then, his nearest rivals were the likes of David Nofoaluma (36.7 km/h), Latrell Mitchell (36.6 km/h) and Matt Dufty (36.5 km/h).
But after training with sprint coach Roger Fabri, who also works with Addo-Carr, three times a week during the coronavirus shutdown, Xerri is confident he can now hit a similar speed to the Storm winger.
The two speedsters even went head-to-head in a 70 metre time in April during a session with Fabri and Addo-Carr pipped Xerri by 0.03 seconds.
"I think he timed me from my first session to my last session, and it was a massive improvement," Xerri said.
"I can't give a number for what time was but it was pretty fast. I think I am a lot faster than I was this time last year. We were getting timed every session and I was just getting faster and faster, and I felt that too."
Xerri last laced up his footy boots eight months ago and after an extended break is itching to test his added speed at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday, where a dry track is expected.
"When I came back, the first day back at training with the boys, they tipped me up and said I was looking a lot faster and quicker," Xerri said.
Sharks coach John Morris will have the luxury of naming a full-strength outfit for round three with Xerri, Josh Dugan (knee) and Matt Moylan (calf]) expected to be available for selection.
After overcoming a head knock at training last week, the concern for Moylan now is match fitness. The star fullback hasn't played since August last year.
Originally published as 'I thought I was going to shut down the NRL'