The Gold Coast Titans' hopes of replicating last year's semi-final appearance at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines have suffered a further blow with English international Dan Sarginson ruled out with a patella tendon injury.
Sarginson originally tried to play through the injury when it first occurred but when it was discovered that he had a slight tear in the tendon he was immediately added to the rehab group.
A complete rupture of the tendon would have ended the 23-year-old's maiden NRL season before it began and as it stands he is hoping to be fit for the club's final trial game against the Warriors in New Zealand on February 9 or Round 1 of the Telstra Premiership against the Roosters.
Sarginson is the third high-profile Titans player to be ruled out of the Nines with Kiwi international Kevin Proctor currently in a knee brace and centre Konrad Hurrell also recovering from a knee injury suffered prior to Christmas. All three won't be considered for selection by coach Neil Henry.
Superstar fullback Jarryd Hayne is an ambassador for the Auckland Nines and is expected to take his place in the squad, with half Kane Elgey also signifying previously that the weekend at Eden Park would mark his return to rugby league after missing the 2016 season with an ACL injury.
Wins over the Raiders and Dragons in the pool games of last year's tournament saw the Titans progress to the quarter-finals where they easily accounted for Manly 24-4 before falling to hometown favourites the Warriors in the semi-finals.
The Titans have the honour of playing the opening game of the tournament against defending Telstra Premiership champions – and 2015 Auckland Nines runners-up – Cronulla before further pool games against the Bulldogs and Panthers.
One man who won't be at the Nines is prop forward David Shillington.
Currently recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, the eight-time Origin representative for Queensland has taken on a role as an NRL Ambassador with doubts being raised as to whether Shillington will get back on the park to add to his 215 career games to date.