Exploratory surgery on Kieran Foran's latest devastating shoulder injury will determine how much he misses of the 2020 season and whether Canterbury can apply for salary cap dispensation.
Scans confirmed on Monday that Foran is facing at least a six-month lay-off and a shoulder reconstruction after lasting just five minutes into his New Zealand Test comeback on Saturday.
The Bulldogs have confirmed that Foran will have reconstructive surgery to ligament damage in his shoulder either late this week or next Monday.
At this stage, the club is hopeful of a best-case scenario in which the 29-year-old would be sidelined until at least May.
Exploratory surgery will also be performed to determine whether there is further damage to Foran's rotator cuff, a scenario that could extend the veteran half's recovery by some time.
Given Foran was injured playing for his country, Canterbury could make an application for up to $350,000 of salary cap relief to spend on a 'like-for-like' player if Foran is ruled out for 12 or more games.
RTS feels for unlucky Foran after latest injury setback
Bulldogs chief executive Andrew Hill stressed that the club's focus this week was solely on supporting Foran during his recovery, with any implications of his injury to be dealt after his upcoming surgery.
"The news is incredibly disappointing for both Kieran and the Bulldogs, especially as he has worked so hard to get back on to the field," Hill said in a Bulldogs statement.
"The club will make sure that Kieran receives the best possible medical support during surgery and his rehabilitation and will continue to monitor his recovery and potential return date.
"Kieran is part of the Bulldogs family and we will make sure that he and his family receive everything they need during this time."
Foran is said to be bullish about his latest injury setback and is refusing to contemplate suggestions of being forced into early retirement.
This is the last year of his lucrative Canterbury contract, believed to be worth around $1 million a season, but Foran has vowed to push through another gruelling rehabilitation to get back on the paddock.
Canterbury currently have one spot remaining in their top 30 squad, allowing for a playmaker to be brought in under the NRL's representative injury allowance, should Foran be ruled out until at least round 12 next year.
The club would need to prove that Foran's latest injury was not a pre-existing one, with his 2016 reconstruction on the same shoulder a potential stumbling block.
Young halves Lachlan Lewis and Jack Cogger are set to combine at Canterbury's scrumbase in Foran's absence to start 2020.