Broncos lose Hoffman for the season
Having just been blitzed by one of the most damaging fullbacks the game has seen, Brisbane's 42-16 loss to the Rabbitohs was compounded by the loss of their own star custodian, with Josh Hoffman suffering a suspected season-ending broken fibula.
While opposite number Greg Inglis dined out with a hat-trick of tries, Hoffman's night ended in the 55th minute when he clutched in agony at his lower right leg as it became trapped under the weight of a Souths defender, and had to be assisted from the field.
Hoffman had suffered the same injury in 2011, which then ruled him out for 10 weeks, and left ANZ Stadium wearing a moon boot.
Coach Anthony Griffin confirmed after the match it was likely the 26-year-old had played his last game for 2014.
"It's not good," Griffin said.
"He's done it before... he'll have to get scans but he and the doctor are pretty sure it's the same thing."
"If that's the injury it will be [the end of his season]."
The loss of Hoffman throws a rather large spanner in the works of the Broncos' team structure, with he and five-eighth Ben Barba having swapped between the roles in recent weeks, a switch that had seen both players' form improve markedly.
Barba played the final half an hour at the back after Hoffman's injury, though a more likely option for the Broncos' must-win clash with the Knights next Saturday is for Barba to remain in the halves and veteran centre Justin Hodges or young winger Lachlan Maranta to take up the fullback role.
The loss leaves Brisbane stagnating on 24 competition points in 10th spot and needing to win all three of their remaining matches against the Knights and Dragons at home, and a daunting Round 26 road trip to Melbourne, to qualify for the semis.
Hodges lauded Inglis as the "number one player in the game at the moment" after the Indigenous superstar cut his side to pieces with three tries and a hand in several others as the NRL kicked off its Close the Gap Round.
Griffin echoed his skipper's sentiments but was lamented the opportunities the Broncos gave the Rabbitohs star, in particular two costly errors from winger Daniel Vidot, one which led directly to a Lote Tuqiri try in the 34th minute and the other which saw him bomb a certain try after being put over the line midway through the second half.
"As we saw tonight [Inglis] can just do things that no one else can do if he gets himself in the right place at the right time," Griffin said.
"He's one of the greatest players in the game when he decides to do something. Sometimes you are sitting there and you can't do anything about it.
"But the frustrating thing is we contributed to a lot of the field position and a lot of the points that came their way. The two balls Daniel Vidot dropped in defence and attack; that's 12 points. If you leave them in range, you're always at the mercy of someone like Inglis if he's in that type of mood tonight."