Tonga's 2019 representative campaign has been dealt a further blow with confirmation Titans prop Moeaki Fotuaika will undergo separate surgeries to repair knee and wrist injuries.
The favourite to win the Paul Broughton Medal as the Titans' best and fairest next Friday, Fotuaika will miss the final game of a horror Gold Coast season due to a high ankle sprain suffered in last week's surrender to the Knights in Newcastle.
Yet to make his Tongan debut, Fotuaika has been on the verge of selection for the past 12 months and his scratching is a further disappointment to a Tongan playing group threatening to boycott the World Cup 9s and Tests against Australia and Great Britain.
The absence of Fotuaika thrusts Jai Arrow into the Titans front row and Nathan Peats into lock with last week's debutant Tanah Boyd earning a late promotion to start in the halves. Ryley Jacks drops back to the bench.
In confirming Fotuaika's impending surgeries that will see him miss the opening few weeks of pre-season training under new coach Justin Holbrook, departing senior coach Craig Hodges praised the 19-year-old for the way he has fought on under great discomfort.
Titans v Dragons - Round 25
"The players would be embarrassed if I went into detail individually about them but I will with Moe," Hodges said ahead of Saturday night's clash with the Dragons at Cbus Super Stadium.
"He's a 19-year-old middle forward who for the past 10 weeks has required knee surgery and hand surgery and eventually it ended up being a high ankle sprain that's pulled him up.
"His tolerance to pain has been outstanding, I don't think anybody can question his effort.
"He's been giving a lot of people hope for the future with what he's done and I can guarantee you he's been doing it on one leg with one arm.
"It's been a tremendous effort, not just the physical toughness but the mental toughness for a young man in his position.
"He's not hiding out on the sidelines, he's in the middle of the game so to do what he has done has been pretty incredible."
Gold Coast will take the field for the final time in 2019 without a massive chunk of their salary cap.
Ryan James, Ash Taylor, Shannon Boyd, Tyrone Roberts, Dale Copley, Kallum Watkins and Keegan Hipgrave will all be watching from the stands.
It's anyone's game
England international Watkins was criticised for two poor defensive efforts against Newcastle a week ago but like Fotuaika was expected to put the boots away a month ago.
"Kallum should have been out three or four weeks ago," Hodges explained, saying Watkins was still on the comeback trail from an ACL injury suffered last May playing for Leeds.
"He had crook ribs on one side to start with and then busted his ribs on the other side.
"Anybody that has had rib damage, even when you're not in contact it hurts when you run and step and shudders through your body.
"When things aren't going well and you're going to come last, it's real easy for guys to pull out and sit on the sideline and let everybody else cop the flak but some of them have done a wonderful job stepping up to the plate."