A week after being denied a State of Origin debut by an eligibility drama, winger Ronaldo Mulitalo was again left in tears after Cronulla's upset 26-18 NRL loss to Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.
Sharks coach Josh Hannay said the club would need to rally around Mulitalo, predicting his nightmare week would start to take its toll on the New Zealand-born flyer.
Initially Mulitalo showed no ill effects in his first game since being withdrawn on the day of Origin II and subsequently ruled ineligible to play for Queensland.
Match: Broncos v Sharks
Round 16 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
He ran 109m, set up one of centre Connor Tracey's two tries while almost scoring in the 50th minute and collected six tackle busts for the eighth-placed Sharks.
He was also impressive in defence and almost denied Tesi Niu's second try in the 61st minute by coming from the clouds during the Brisbane fullback's 90m run to the line that gave the hosts a 22-18 lead.
But the first cracks appeared after the Sharks' four game winning streak ended.
The Sharks score a cracker of their own
Mulitalo broke down in tears as he left the field after seeing family members in the Suncorp Stadium stands.
"Credit to Ronny. I can't tell you how tough and challenging the last fortnight has been for him," Hannay said.
"To be really honest, he has been let down by the game and the processes and how it has come to this situation, and he has really stood up.
"He is an emotional lad and we are always really worried about that with these young guys, and with their emotions.
Tracey has a double and Cronulla are back level
"He went out there today and was really strong for us.
"I think it is going to hit him like a ton of bricks tonight.
"The (Origin eligibility) decision that has come down, we have lost the game...and to get on the plane now - we have to get around him the next few days and weeks."
Hannay couldn't speak highly enough of Mulitalo who provided much-needed spark for a Sharks outfit that lost playmaker Matt Moylan (calf) before kick-off.
"The one thing with Ronny, and that's a good thing, is that he wears his heart on his sleeve," Hannay said.
"You know how he is feeling. He will actually tell you. He is not one of those guys who hides it.
"We are always in dialogue with Ronny because there is a lot going on at the moment for a young fella.
"He is doing one hell of a job and can hold his head high with how he is handling it."
The upset loss added to a worrying trend for the Sharks as they fight to remain in finals contention.
Tolman on the spot to score from Brailey kick
"We have lost to both the bottom teams (Brisbane and Canterbury) this year and funnily enough both had a similar feel to them in terms of us not quite being there with our energy and intent," Hannay said.
"We need to make that one up now and get back to what has worked for us in the last month where we have been really good in those fundamental areas."
Meanwhile Hannay was unsure of a return date for Moylan, who was replaced by Braydon Trindall at pivot on Sunday.
"Matt trained well in our main session on Friday. We have Braydon on the bench for us and it was fortunate that he was there," Hannay said.
"I'm not sure of the severity of Matt's calf in terms of what he did (on Sunday), but we are not using that as an excuse."