Manly coach Des Hasler initially feared Tom Trbojevic had suffered a potentially season-ending hamstring "tear off the bone" when his superstar fullback slipped over in the bathroom of his family home.
Scans on Monday revealed that Trbojevic will spend the next 6-7 weeks recovering from a grade-two tear in his right hamstring.
Vision of Trbojevic sprinting down Manly Corso on Saturday night against a fan has circulated since the injury was confirmed, prompting the club to deny suggestions of a cover-up around the cause of his latest hamstring issue.
The saving grace for the Sea Eagles and Trbojevic is he has now injured his "good" hamstring, and not the opposite one that has limited him to 19 games in the past two seasons.
Hasler told NRL.com that he had feared the worst when he first found out about Trbojevic's injury setback, suffered early on Sunday morning three weeks out from Manly's round-one clash with the Roosters.
"It's a pretty embarrassing one to say but I've just woken up Sunday morning and slipped over in the bathroom and just felt it go," Trbojevic said on Monday.
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"It didn't feel great, I've felt that feeling before so I knew what was going on pretty quickly.
"It's a good thing. Obviously with the other hammy, my understanding is it's harder to keep repairing it.
"A fresh injury can often be better, so we'll take the positive out of that. Obviously it's hard to find one in this situation but its part of life and I'll work hard to get back out there."
Manly's only pre-season hit-out against Wests Tigers takes on added significance as Hasler now searches for a temporary replacement at fullback.
The Sea Eagles coach nominated outside backs Reuben Garrick and Morgan Harper as early candidates who have trained at the back over summer.
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Tevita Funa also filled the No.1 jersey late last year when Trbojevic was injured, while Jason Saab is also believed to be under consideration, though a club debut on the right wing looks more likely for the 199cm tall timber.
Manly play the Roosters, Rabbitohs, Dragons and Panthers to open their 2021 season.
Given they have won just eight of 27 games without Trbojevic in the past two seasons at a 29% clip, Hasler is grateful the 24-year-old's bathroom tiles didn't do any more damage to the club's campaign.
"We're thankful it's not major, that he didn't tear it off the bone like Latrell Mitchell," Hasler told NRL.com.
"That was my biggest concern when he had the scans. We've avoided that, that 20-week timeframe that is most of your season.
"We've got to be deliberately philosophical about it, the fact that it's probably good that it's happened now and not in the middle of the year.
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"We've got three weeks before kick-off and it'll probably be a six-week turnaround so he'll probably miss the first three games.
"We do have people like Reuben [Garrick] and Morgan Harper who have been running in that position constantly. At some point we were going to need cover for Tommy with Origin coming around anyway.
"I just feel for the kid, he's worked so hard and he's been like a kid with a bag of lollies. But we're philosophical about it."
Trbojevic had been in top shape coming to the end of a gruelling pre-season, telling NRL.com at Thursday's Fox League launch that he would likely be kept on ice for the Tigers trial, but was otherwise good to go.
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He and veteran Kieran Foran had spent a week in Melbourne last working with experts in hamstring injury prevention before Christmas and adopting new training regimes aimed at keeping them on the paddock in 2021.
Hasler said further work with the researches Australian Catholic University may be undertaken given Trbojevic's latest injury has occurred in the opposite hamstring.
"The way it happened, if it was at training or in a game I guess I can take that a bit more," Trbojevic said as he offered an apology to Sea Eagles fans.
"But for it to happen at home and the reason I haven't been able to play footy the past few years … the members, fans and the club have a lot of trust in me and I haven't been playing enough footy so that's the reason that you do feel bad for them.
"I'll do everything I can to turn it around.
"This club's shown a lot of faith in me and I haven't been able to stay on the field and repay that. That's something I've got to work hard on and try and rewrite that."
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