St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan says he will push through the pain barrier heading into the NRL finals after being left "a bit broken" by State of Origin.
Dragons fans faced a few nervous moments when Dugan stayed on the ground clutching at his ribs during Sunday's 46-24 win over Newcastle.
After landing on his own elbow and then copping a shot from Knights enforcer Jeremy Smith, Dugan stirred up an old injury and was left gasping for air.
Coach Paul McGregor admitted after the game that Dugan was still feeling the affects of the representative period and he would have to be carefully managed for the rest of the year.
Dugan has been injury-prone during his career and the toll on his body has been exacerbated this season due to the heaviest representative commitments he has ever undertaken.
After making his Australian debut in the trans-Tasman Test in May, for the first time in his career he played all three State of Origin matches for NSW.
Dugan is one of the cornerstones of the Dragons attack and his presence will be key for his side's chances after they jumped back in the top eight with a drought-breaking win against the Knights.
He was rested from the side's round 18 clash with Cronulla but McGregor has ruled out leaving him out again this season with the Dragons' finals hopes on the line over the next five weeks.
"I think every player is run down at this time of the year - it's a long season and you put your body through hell for 26 weeks to get to the finals," Dugan said.
"No one is different and everybody puts their body on the line and it's just a bit tougher for me coming through Origin.
"Mentally and physically I was a bit broken after it and I spoke to Mary (McGregor) in the lead up to that Sharks game and I just wanted that one week off to get my head right and give my body a bit of a rest.
"I was back on the Monday and refreshed and ready to go and I haven't looked back."