Raiders' Leilua suffers freak eye injury

Joseph Leilua. Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The NRL will investigate after pre-match pyrotechnics at AAMI Park left Canberra centre Joey Leulia with an eye injury and unable to take his place in the starting line-up for the qualifying final against Melbourne.

Saturday's match was held up while Leilua was treated on the sidelines but he headed to the change rooms before kick-off.

Bailey Simonsson took Leilua's place and scored the opening try in the third minute.

The Raiders said medical staff were able to remove a piece of black pyrotechnic shell from Leilua's left eye.

The NRL said it would investigate the incident.

"We're reviewing all circumstances around the incident," a NRL spokesman said.

Leilua eventually made his way on to the field in the 20th minute when he replaced Nick Cotric.

The Canberra winger copped a boot to his head while attempting to tackle Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, with blood gushing from nose and a cut above his lip.

He failed his HIA, ruling him out of returning to play.

There was some confusion over whether Leilua's late swap would be a free interchange but the spokesman said it would be outside the rules.

"The late change before the kick-off was made within the rules," he said.

"There is no provision under the rules to allow a free interchange after the game commences."

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."