By Gabriel Tan
However, the spirit with which the midfield enforcer usually plays was present at the Jurong West Stadium in the way his team-mates battled back from a goal down to steal a point against the defending champions and league leaders.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Dhanaraj had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma - a type of cancer originating from lymphocytes - grinding to a halt a career that looked firmly on the rise following his move from Geylang United at the start of the season.
Shortly after moving to Gombak, the 28-year-old established himself as one of the league's best defensive midfielders with his perfect blend of aggressive tackling, ball-playing capabilities and no-nonsense style of play.
Immediately becoming an important part of coach K. Balagumaran's first-team plans, Dhanaraj provided a shield in front of an already stable backline (which currently holds the league's joint third-best defensive record) and was also usually the first one to initiate any attacking move for his side.
Nonetheless, given that Gombak, a relatively humble club, are yet to be viewed in the same light as Tampines, Home United and SAFFC, it was perhaps somewhat understandable that a player like Dhanaraj never made the headlines, especially when compared to the likes of Ahmad Latiff, Musashi Okuyama and Shi Jiayi.
Still, despite being under-rated by many outside the club, those within the Gombak inner sanctum knew Dhanaraj as a well-spoken, likeable individual who wore his heart on his sleeve and always gave 100% when he walked out onto the field to do battle with his team-mates.
And the regard he is held in at the Jurong West Stadium was clear for all to see on Saturday as the Bulls made their way out for their game against wearing shirts emblazoned with "Get well soon, Adrian" on the front, and his number five on the back.
The move, which had been initiated by the players themselves, reportedly brought tears to the eyes of his father Peter, who is the team manager of Gombak. Fittingly, it was Hafiz Rahim, one of Dhanaraj's best mates at the club, who poked home the equaliser for the Bulls 13 minutes from time, after Sead Hadzibulic had put Tampines in front in the 21st-minute winner with a close-range header.
Speaking after the game, Balagumaran revealed his players had taken to the field on Saturday intent on getting a win for their comrade.
"I'm pleased with the performance and the draw," he said. "But the boys actually wanted to get all three points.
"We wanted to do it for Adrian and we missed him very much.
"He's such a fighter and gives it his all on the field. I remember in our game against Harimau Muda earlier this season, they really struggled to cope with his presence in the middle of the park."
It remains to be seen if Dhanaraj will ever play a competitive game of football again, although he has already revealed he is determined to beat the cancer and is entertaining thoughts of making a comeback.
In a way, if he approaches his treatment the same way he approaches his football - chasing down every opposition player before bullying them into submission - then those cancer cells should be very afraid.
Even if he never pulls on a Gombak jersey again, the spirited midfielder can take heart from the fact that he will be remembered as a real Bulls hero, even though he only turned out for them for all of eight months.
Every single time he played this season, Dhanaraj made Gombak proud with the way he never held back on the field. On Saturday, his team-mates returned the compliment by producing a gritty performance.
On Saturday, Gombak did Dhanaraj proud.