Reed, Nikorima out for the season
The Brisbane Broncos have suffered a double injury blow heading into Thursday night's clash against the Sydney Roosters, with coach Wayne Bennett confirming that both Jack Reed and Kodi Nikorima will not return this season.
Reed missed Round 1 after undergoing a fourth shoulder reconstruction in the off-season, returning in Round 2 and continuing to battle on in pain for the first half of the Broncos' 2016 campaign.
But the English international succumbed to the pain halfway through the year, and he has not played since Brisbane's Round 13 loss to the Warriors.
From that point Reed had been ruled out for indefinitely, but on Wednesday Bennett decided it was finally time to confirm what many already expected.
"Jack won't be back this year," Bennett said.
"There are a few different prognoses going around at the moment but he won't be returning this year.
"It's disappointing for any player that can't finish the season. Long-term injuries will always disappoint them.
"Tom Opacic has been steady in Reed's position and he's got the job done for us. That's all I ask of him.
"He's reliable for the rest of the team. He'll do what's needed in attack and defence for us."
Perhaps unexpectedly, Nikorima will be joining Reed in the stands for the rest of the season.
The New Zealand international hasn't been seen since he dislocated his shoulder twice against the Melbourne Storm in Round 17 and he will now require surgery.
It was a testament to Nikorima's toughness that he stayed on the field in that match, with his first dislocation occurring midway through the first half.
But with the Broncos already having lost winger Corey Oates to concussion, Nikorima stayed on the field and battled through the pain.
It was a decision that came back to bite the 22-year-old, dislocating the same shoulder again in the final seconds of the match.
On both occasions Brisbane's trainers came to his aid and popped his damaged shoulder back into place on the field, but he now requires proper medical attention to fully repair the joint and ensure 100 per cent fitness for the 2017 season.
Bennett told media at the Broncos' captain's run that he had hoped Nikorima would make a return without surgery, but that hope now appears all but gone.
"Kodi won't return," he said.
"Shoulder surgery was always the diagnosis, but we thought we could get him some games before the end of the year.
"We're running out of time for that to happen and it probably won't happen now.
"I don't necessarily think we are playing better with four forwards on the bench. If Kodi were fit he'd be there."
The injury to Nikorima means hooker Andrew McCullough will continue to play for the full 80 minutes without a utility on Brisbane's bench.
The 26-year-old failed to train on Monday with an ankle injury, but on Wednesday he was passed as fit to play by the Broncos' medical staff.