Canterbury and Kieran Foran have been stunned by news the star playmaker could miss the entire 2020 season due to newly discovered damage to his shoulder.
Foran underwent exploratory surgery on Tuesday having already anticipated a six-month lay-off from a shoulder reconstruction.
But in a devastating blow for the Bulldogs and Foran's chances of continuing his career, surgeons found his rotator cuff also requires a cleanout, which will require at least nine months if not the best part of a year's recovery.
Foran suffered the injury to his right shoulder, which he has already had reconstructed once in 2016, just five minutes into his New Zealand Test comeback against Great Britain last Saturday.
The Bulldogs will now explore an application for up to $350,000 of salary cap relief under the NRL's representative injury rules.
It is unclear where the latest injury development leaves Foran's future.
This is the last year of a bumper three-year Bulldogs contract signed in 2017, with Foran understood to be earning more than $1 million in 2020.
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It's a cruel development as far as Canterbury's salary cap is concerned given the club is only now beginning to see clear air after years of heartache due to back-ended deals under previous management.
Even if a full application for salary cap relief is granted, there are few playmakers available in the market that fit the "like-for-like" billing to replace Foran.
Since arriving at Belmore two years ago Foran has managed to play just 26 of a possible 48 games for the club, and now faces another season lost to injury.
Young halves Lachlan Lewis and Jack Cogger are set to combine at Canterbury's scrumbase in Foran's enforced absence.