Emerging Cowboys prop Sam Hoare has been ruled out for the season after sustaining a knee injury, coach Paul Green confirmed on Tuesday.
Hoare will undergo a full knee reconstruction after going down in an innocuous tackle late in the second half of the Townsville Blackhawks' 46-26 win over the Souths Logan Magpies on Saturday.
It is a cruel blow for the hardworking 24-year-old who leads the way for his Intrust Super Cup side, which sits equal top of the ladder (3-0) with the PNG Hunters.
"Unfortunately Sam's season is over. He's had to have a reconstruction which is terrible news for him," Green said.
"I thought he was putting pressure on our guys in the NRL team. It's unfortunate obviously, but it's part and parcel of rugby league."
Had any Cowboys forwards missed football, Hoare was the next in line. After making his first NRL start last season during the Origin period, the 195-centimetre prop was projected as a certainty for at least another two appearances on the big stage this year.
"He would have featured in our team at some stage," Green said.
"He wasn't far away last weekend. He was 18th man for us in the lead-up to last week's game, so that tells you how close he was to selection."
Blackhawks football operations manager Adrian Thomson said it was a setback for both the club and Hoare, who was doing all the right things in the pursuit of a first-grade spot.
"We were hopeful that he would play a few games for us then be pressing his case for first grade," Thomson said.
"I haven't seen the full report but I just know we feel for the lad. From the footy side of things and from our side of things we know that we will miss his presence.
"At present we're worried with regards to his welfare, but he's a strong lad; he's young and he will come back stronger and better than ever."
The loss of Hoare means that Ben Spina (six NRL games) and Patrick Kaufusi (one game) are in line for NRL appearances in Round 12 (away to the Dragons) and Round 18 (away to Canberra), with Matt Scott and James Tamou likely Origin inclusions.