Canberra Raiders players have leapt to the defence of passionate forward Corey Horsburgh, whose fiery departure during their loss to Parramatta could be his last NRL act for months.
A teary Horsburgh flipped a double bird to the crowd at Bankwest Stadium as he limped off late in the first half of their 25-24 loss, having suffered a foot injury in a legal tackle instigated by Ryan Matterson.
'GOT A BIT EMOTIONAL’: Inside Smith's address to Warriors
The 22-year-old immediately confronted Matterson, instigating a standoff before emotion boiled over.
But with pain etched across Horsburgh’s face as he departed the field, the forward lashed out at fans as he flipped the double bird to a section of the small crowd.
Fans were divided over the incident, with some social media users slammed Horsburgh for lashing out like he did.
While others called out the heckling from the crowd as ‘bloody disgraceful’ because he was clearly injured.
Williams defends Horsburgh from criticism
But Raiders halfback George Williams believed Horsburgh's reaction was due to the injury, which could prove to be serious.
The second-season lock may require surgery after suffering a suspected lisfranc (mid-foot) fracture. The rehabilitation time could stretch more than three months.
Veteran Raiders prop Sia Soliola backed his teammate's enthusiasm but said the incident would ultimately be a good lesson in how to best harness his energy, suggesting the Eels pack had picked him out as a target for physicality.
Pulling middle fingers at the crowd wasn't the ideal reaction, said Soliola, who contacted Horsburgh on Sunday to offer support.
"He really understood the consequence of his actions, even though it was highlighted over the weekend.
"It's probably a good thing that he sees it himself. It might be a bit of a turning stone for him."
He said the former Caboolture junior could yet play a key part in their 2020 campaign.
"I feel for him. He's worked hard to get to where he is," Soliola said.
"He'll bounce back, he's a strong kid. He's a fiery ball of energy, isn't he? And it showed at the weekend."