Jarrod Croker's hopes of steering the Green Machine to the finals are looking grim amidst fears the Canberra Raiders captain will spend a crucial period on the sidelines.
Croker will have scans on his left knee after he left Canberra Stadium dejected and in a leg brace due to a dislocated knee suffered in the Raiders' win over the North Queensland Cowboys.
Raiders officials fear Croker could miss a minimum of three weeks and his season will be over if he needs surgery, with further updates expected early this week.
The injury could rule the 27-year-old out for Canberra's make or break stretch on the road against three of the NRL's top five sides in Cronulla, Melbourne, and Penrith. It is a cruel blow with Jack Wighton (suspended), Shannon Boyd (calf) and Joe Tapine (suspended) also out.
It is believed to be the same injury Croker suffered in the NRL All Stars game last year which kept him sidelined for five weeks.
"If he is out for the rest of the season, it’s a huge blow," Peter Sterling said on Channel Nine's Sunday Footy Show.
"He’s their goal kicker - I know Aidan Sezer is a very good goal kicker - but he’s a leader in so many ways, Jarrod Croker. If he is not there, it’s huge in regards to what they can do for the rest of this season."
Raiders utility Blake Austin proved a solid replacement in the centres while the impending return of Brad Abbey could add another ace to coach Ricky Stuart's hand.
Stuart could reshuffle his backline to accommodate the loss of Croker, with winger Michael Oldfield emerging as another candidate to shift in the centres after scoring a hat-trick against the Cowboys.
Stuart has been rapt with Oldfield's form since he earned a starting opportunity and the man himself says he won't let it slip because he has had enough of being on the fringes.
"Being on the fringe, it’s tough being on the outside. When you get your opportunity you’ve just got to take it," Oldfield said.
"I’ve done enough of this fringe-style footy, so to get my opportunity, I’m trying to make the most of it and that’s it.
"I base my game off week-to-week, as cliche as it sounds, I’ve just got to keep playing good footy and hopefully I get named every Tuesday."
Oldfield has slotted in seamlessly to a new-look back three with Jordan Rapana on the other wing and Nick Cotric deputising for Wighton at fullback.
It is those two men that have kept Oldfield out of the starting side but he says he has never felt like he was locked in a battle to pry away their jerseys.
"I don’t see it as much as a competing sort of thing as keeping each other honest," Oldfield said.
"We push each other at training, we just want the best for each other and ultimately want the best for the team. They’ve solidified themselves in starting positions and that’s how footy is.
"It’s the way footy is, injuries happen and things happen so you’ve got to be ready. Now I’ve got my opportunity, I’m just happy to be a part of the team."
The Raiders are now two wins outside the top eight and creeping up on the Brisbane Broncos following their shock loss to the New Zealand Warriors on Sunday.
The Broncos are four points clear of Canberra, which could leave the Green Machine to rue their Brisbane disaster.
But Oldfield is confident the Raiders can defy the odds as they gear up for a tough run home that leaves them requiring at least six wins from their final seven games.
"We won last week but it was a very ugly win and we had a very poor performance as a team, it was probably our worst all year despite the fact we won," Oldfield said.
"Just the fact we put in an 80-minute game, it boosts your confidence and you can feel it in the sheds right now. Everyone is on a happy buzz and that wasn’t the case this week leading up [to the Cowboys game].
"Any win is a good feeling bar last week, it was just good to have an 80-minute game. Across the park everyone had a good game and it showed scoreline-wise."
NRL ROUND 19
Friday: Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks at Shark Park, 6pm. Live on Fox League.