Glenn Hull, a 33-year-old builder from Woolgoolga, was playing against Ballina at the Quays Reserve, Ballina, on Saturday when the injury occurred.
Amazingly, Hull didn't know how serious the injury was until the next morning when he went to Coffs Harbour Hospital to check out a stiff neck.
Glenn's father, Dennis, said the doctors immediately stabilised his son and telling him that he was just 'a centimetre from death'.
"They said that's the way it goes when you fracture your C1 vertebrae; you are either dead immediately or you can survive," Dennis said.
"Glenn is thought to have broken his neck when he copped an accidental elbow to the side of the head."
Grafton third grade coach Tony Foulstone said the young builder, who was playing in the centres, immediately came to the sideline to be replaced after receiving the injury.
Dennis said Glenn had undergone an MRI scan at Royal North Shore at lunchtime yesterday and the doctors were waiting to review the results before they decided if an operation was necessary.
"At the moment they are waiting, but it is hoped he won't need an operation and will just have to wear a halo brace for three months," Dennis said.
"The good news for Glenn's wife, Tania, and their three young children is that dad has full movement."
Woolgoolga club president Stuart Lindsay said Glenn was one of the founders of the Woolgoolga White Pointers who joined the FNC Rugby Village competition three seasons ago.
"He only joined Grafton when the Woolgoolga team dropped out of their competition," Lindsay said.
"We'll see what the diagnosis is and then a few of us from here will probably go down there to see him."
Hull's injuries have revived memories of last season when Bangalow rugby player Richard Allen broke his neck in the opening round following a tackle.
As a result of that injury, Allen is a quadriplegic.