The Wests Tigers' season has been thrown into disarray after three of their key players suffered serious injuries in their side's 20-10 loss to Brisbane at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday night.
The immediate futures of Tim Moltzen, Chris Lawrence and Blake Ayshford appear grim after the trio failed to finish the match.
The club's playmaker curse claimed its latest victim with Moltzen suffering a season-ending knee injury. While Lawrence has a hamstring injury, Ayshford suffered a suspected broken leg in the 75th minute, which left the Tigers with just 12 players for the last six minutes after using up all their interchanges. With Benji Marshall in the stands for another fortnight with a toe injury and Braith Anasta set to miss a month with a groin injury, the injury to Moltzen couldn't have come at a worse time for the struggling Tigers outfit.
Moltzen, who this week was shifted from fullback to the No.7 jersey to cover for Marshall and Anasta, was taken from the field in agony after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in the 60th minute.
Moltzen hit the deck in excruciating pain after attempting a tackle on Broncos centre Justin Hodges, who withdrew from the ongoing play to aid the distressed Tigers pivot.
Unfortunately for the 24-year-old, he injured the same knee that forced him to miss most of the 2010 season after he was taken from the field in the round-five clash with North Queensland in Townsville. Moltzen, who later returned to the bench on crutches to watch his side, was the fifth playmaker used by coach Mick Potter in seven games this season.
The injury has left Potter with a selection conundrum in the halves, with Jacob Miller waiting in the wings after being dropped to the NSW Cup earlier in the year. The Tigers also have rookie sensation Luke Brooks in the under-20s, but he may not be ready for the step up to next Friday's clash with the Bulldogs.
Lawrence was taken from the field in the first half after aggravating a hamstring injury, but isn't expected to miss a lengthy period.
Positives were hard to come by last night, and winger Marika Koroibete could be rushed back into the side for their clash with the Bulldogs to cover for the losses.
The injuries capped off a disappointing night for the home side, who despite a short burst on either side of the half-time break, lacked the fluency in attack to trouble the Broncos.
Brisbane opened the scoring in a manner that would have left Potter seething in the coaches' box. Corey Norman sliced through some feeble defence untouched before Matt Gillett was presented with a similar passage to the try line five minutes later to give the visitors an 8-0 lead after 10 minutes.
Gillett, who is likely to earn a position on the Queensland bench for the opening game of the State of Origin series, scored his second try of the night after some fancy footwork and an offload from Hodges.
But just as it looked like the Broncos would go into the sheds having completed a near perfect half of football, the Tigers brought life back into the 11,547 fans at Campbelltown Stadium when Matt Utai burrowed his way under the Broncos defence on the very first occasion the Tigers made it inside their opposition 20-metre zone.
The Tigers looked to have reduced the margin to just one try when Sauaso Sue latched on to a Robbie Farah grubber that ricocheted off the goal post pad, only for the video referee to deem it was a double movement. They eventually scored through Shaun Spence off a Farah bomb, but a late try to Hodges put the result beyond doubt.
BRISBANE 20 (M Gillett 2 J Hodges C Norman tries C Parker S Prince goals) bt WESTS TIGERS 10 (S Spence M Utai tries C Sironen goal) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. Referee: Gavin Morris, Ben Cummins. Crowd: 11,547.