Josh Tremain's orange headgear is iconic across the Central West rugby scene.
Without it, he'd be dead.
When the Orange City captain was hit in the temple by Navitalai Bola in Cowra on May 18, 2019, he stopped breathing. He went into lockjaw and his face and lips had turned blue before a nurse watching on the sidelines was able to release his jaw.
Without the helmet, he would be told later in hospital in Cowra, he would likely have been killed.
It was about four hours after the incident Tremain properly regained consciousness, fighting blurry vision and migranes, instead of celebrating his 200th game with the party his teammates had planned for the man universally known as 'Blocker'.
While he was cleared of brain bleeding and scans came back clear, Tremain's battle was just beginning.
Tremain - as close to the heart and soul of the club as anyone - was ruled out for the rest of a season which at that stage was only six rounds deep.
He was forced to spend the next two weeks indoors, lying down and with the curtains drawn as his recovery started.
"It was the hardest thing I've had to do," he said of the recovery.
"I needed to stay away for a bit and rest, I was told I couldn't look at lights or go outside for two weeks.
"There was a lot of anger, a lot of depression, a lot of just being upset."
He had migraines for eight months, up to 10 or 12 a day. He got flashbacks. He had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, something he'd never thought he'd experience.
"Before this incident, I would have... not laughed at someone, but I wouldn't have understood it," Tremain said.
He pauses and turns.
"Now I can fully understand what people are going through. It was a mental battle."
While the flashbacks were hard, what Tremain said he found harder was "not understanding" why it had happened.
Tremain is cut from an old cloth - a farmer, and a mechanic, whose family has lived off the land in Cudal and Yeoval for decades. He's salt of the earth and would give you the shirt off his own back. He's not the sort who you'd pick as someone who could struggle with anything.
"But I struggled so much coming back," he said. "It was the hardest thing I've ever had to go through."
The effects were more widespread than just to his health.
"Financially it affected me majorly, neurosurgeons aren't cheap and if I don't work I don't get paid," he said.
While his family - parents Willie and Cheryl and siblings Brendan, Kate and Jacqui - were a massive crutch for him to lean on, they also bore the brunt of his frustrations.
"Mum and dad aren't happy, they're still not about it," he said.
"They saw the pain I was in and frustration and it was very hard on them. There were times I got really upset at them and yelled at them and afterwards I was like 'this is not their fault'."
The support was incredible, from other clubs, from teammates, from strangers. That's what got me through.Orange City captain Josh Tremain
He went through dark times, especially in the first few months when he was forced to take time away from the club - he said he just wasn't ready to return - and battled mental demons, but said the thing which got him through it was the "incredible" support of the rugby community.
It took him four days after the incident to be able to read on a phone screen again - "it hurt to read a five-line long text message", but when he was able to turn it on again he was overwhelmed.
"I think I had 78 messages on Messenger and another 40 on my phone," he said.
"The support was incredible, from other clubs, from teammates, from strangers. That's what got me through."
The road isn't quite over yet, either.
"After that there's been a lot of memory loss, it's still not quite right. My short-term memory, it's really stuffed that. I've got a really good memory, I can remember things people can't but now I just forget stuff," he said.
"Things like names, leaving a car unlocked when I thought I checked it five times. It seems stupid but ... someone saying my car's parked there and looking at it not actually seeing it."
As much as he wanted to come back last year, looking back now Tremain realises it was never something which should have never been on the cards.
"I'm lucky to be alive and happy to be alive ... last year I wanted to play again but now after taking the time to recover I know I wasn't right," he said.
"You sort of think you can (return) but now I feel I've mended more and now, looking back, I know I wouldn't have been right. I saw a neurosurgeon every week for 14 or 15 weeks."
THE MISSED GAMES
Without wanting to go to in-depth, Tremain said he was still disappointed in the Cowra club for not apologising, for not making any comment or reaching out to either him or the Lions.
"To be honest, you know, the only two guys who've apologised are good friends of mine in Col Jeffs and Tim Berry," Tremain said.
"They came and saw me in the hospital but as far as anyone else, they haven't bothered to say a thing. Not even a club apology, which is pretty poor to be honest.
"I have all respect for those two guys, they are mates of mine. I appreciated it, that was major."
"A little thing like sorry goes a long way, you know."
While Tremain was hit hard by the mental and physical outcomes, the Lions skipper had plenty of opportunities stripped from him.
Losing the chance to celebrate his 200th game was one.
"They had a bus trip and a party planned for me so it was very, very, very disappointing. A lot of things which you know, you can't describe how upset I was," he said.
Although, what hurt more was missing chances on the field. He hated missing games - he always has - and was wiped out for the season.
The Lions didn't win a game all season, and while it's all hypothetical looking at City's 2019 and thinking the side would have won a match with him on the paddock, there's no doubt losing their captain had a massive effect on the club, both on and off the field.
It wasn't just footy with Orange City Tremain missed - he missed the shot to line up as part of the Blue Bulls' incredible run at the Caldwell Cup title, too.
"The Bulls side had great camaraderie, I've played enough footy and knew we were going to win it. To have those sorts of things taken away, that's what hurt the most," he said.
"That is what that guy took from me. It wasn't fair, why did I deserve that? That's a mental thing to get over."
Tremain's now back, running around Pride Park with a grin on his face at the Lions' pre-season training and directing traffic in match simulations, barking orders like he has on-field for over a decade.
He's loving it - even if he jokes his 36-year-old body isn't - and when you ask him how training is going his face beams.
"It's really good," he said.
"It was touch-and-go after last year if it would be but it's really good to have it back on and be back amongst it. You miss the camaraderie," he said.
"I haven't done as much fitness as I would like, I've done a lot of strength work, well, a lot more than in previous years. Everything feels right."
The knowledge of a sport you've played for two decades at the top flight - and even longer when you include juniors - never completely goes away, and Tremain said "it's flooded back".
"I understand I can't play as good as when I was at 25, but that's life and if I can lead the young blokes around and show them a little bit of what I know it'll help," he said.
He described the feeling of walking back in the door of the club as "incredible", drawing out each syllable.
"The support, I've never seen anything like it," he said.
"It's a wonderful club, this one. Although we haven't been successful on the field the last two years there's nowhere I'd rather be."
The support - both in the club and across the region - was almost overwhelming, and he thanked everyone who'd been there for him across the months of recovery.
Tremain is ready to get back onto the field at Pride Park and he's eager to be amongst it, but there's a massive mental hurdle to overcome, which will hit Tremain in the Lions' first game of 2020.
... but I'm going to have to obviously talk with our coach. I don't want to let the boys down but I think they'll understand if I decide not to.Josh Tremain on a potential return to playing at the Cowra ground
Playing Cowra. In Cowra. Will Tremain take to the field, returning to the scene of the incident?
He takes a deep sigh and thinks: "I haven't decided yet," he said. "It's early days."
Tremain doesn't know if he'll be mentally able to return to the Cowra rugby ground, let alone play there.
"At this stage, at this very point in time, no, but I'm going to have to obviously talk with our coach. I don't want to let the boys down but I think they'll understand if I decide not to."
But for now, Tremain is only focused on one thing - running around at Pride Park with his mates, rediscovering and reconnecting with the old Blocker.
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