Jordan Kahu's best game in Cowboys colours has been marred by a shoulder injury that is likely to keep the Kiwi international sidelined for the next six weeks.
In a gritty 6-4 win over the Titans that coach Paul Green regards the toughest he has ever been involved in, North Queensland's fullback suffered an injury to the AC joint of his left shoulder in a heavy collision with Gold Coast prop Jarrod Wallace and then damaged it further when he crashed into Tyrone Peachey in the final play of the game.
Wallace visited the Cowboys sheds after the game to check on the well-being of his former Broncos teammate but scans on Monday are expected to confirm a grade three tear of the ligaments that won't require surgery but rather a six-week recovery.
With a wretched history of injuries – among them three knee reconstructions and a broken jaw last year – Kahu was hopeful when speaking with NRL.com that the injury was not serious but one of the NRL's bravest players looks set for another extended absence.
Match Highlights: Titans v Cowboys
"I think I popped my AC joint out. Nothing too serious but I'm no expert so I've got to go and get scans and see after that," Kahu said.
"It popped out when Jarrod Wallace hit me and I stayed down for a bit and then it happened again on that last play."
The injury to Kahu and broken collarbone suffered by winger Gideon Gela-Mosby that could require as long as 10 weeks to recover further adds to North Queensland's injury woes. Matt Scott missed Sunday's game and could be out for a further five weeks, the likes of Ben Hampton, Justin O'Neill and Te Maire Martin all out indefinitely and winger Nene Macdonald is out for the season.
With his team now riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak that puts them on the doorstep of the top eight, coach Paul Green praised another wholehearted Kahu performance.
"He was outstanding. He had a couple of really, really big efforts. That tackle on [AJ] Brimson, that was a game-changer for us," Green said of Kahu's first half corralling of his Titans opposite.
"Put his body on the line defensively, was great under the high ball, pushed up and got a short pass off Frank Molo and went through at a key period of the game.
"That was the best game Jordy has played for us so far this year but typified the effort for that game in particular."
After starting the year at fullback following the pre-season sacking of Ben Barba, Kahu was moved back into the centres in round three before returning to the No.1 jersey against the Titans in Townsville in round eight.
It's a position he has only played 15 times in 106 NRL appearances and one that prior to the injury he had hoped he had locked down.
"I've been in the centres and on the wing predominantly for most of my career," said Kahu.
"I haven't had a real good crack at fullback and been able to stay there but the last four or five weeks I've managed to do that.
"I'm getting the fitness to play there and just trying to build each week."
Two years since he last played for New Zealand, Kahu was hoping that a recent run of good form would earn a place in Michael Maguire's side to face Tonga on June 22 at Mt Smart Stadium, his latest injury likely to extend his international absence.
"The Kiwis for me is the ultimate. It's the pinnacle of rugby league for any Kiwi player," said the 28-year-old.
"I haven't played there since 2017 so hopefully if my form can keep going the way it is I can make that side."