Fears of a ruptured ACL for star forward Tohu Harris and a season-ending shoulder injury to Wayde Egan are an unjust reward for a Warriors outfit that had no bench players by half-time of their 30-16 loss to Penrith.
Coach Nathan Brown said it looks like Harris – the club's best and most consistent forward for several seasons – will need surgery to repair an ACL tear after twisting his knee in a tackle by Brent Naden.
A knee reconstruction for the New Zealand Test veteran would have Harris pushing to be fit for the start of the 2022 season.
It was the most brutal of 20-minute periods that cost the Warriors Harris, Egan, captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (concussion) and Rocco Berry (hamstring).
Already the Warriors have used 32 players this season – the same number as their nomadic 2020 campaign that saw players return to New Zealand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Match Highlights: Warriors v Panthers
Brown only had a positive diagnosis on Tuivasa-Sheck after a brave loss that nonetheless leaves the Kiwi side in 13th place and four competition points adrift of the top eight.
"Roger's probably the least of our concern," Brown lamented after full-time. "He's had a concussion, obviously, but he feels quite good.
"Now how he goes for the next week, we'll go through the protocols.
"Roger's the one that's obviously in the best shape.
"I think Tohu Harris has done his ACL, which obviously a terrible injury, and Egan's shoulder's looking like he won't be likely for any more games this year, and unfortunately Rocco's hurt his hamstring."
Walsh feeds Berry as young Warriors bear the load
At one point Egan appeared to be volunteering to return to the field if the Warriors suffered another injury, but according to Brown couldn't lift his arm to pass the ball.
The Panthers defeat makes six in a row for Brown's side with another daunting clash against the Rabbitohs looming next Saturday.
Despite their injuries, the Warriors pushed Penrith for much of the contest after leading 10-4 midway through the first half, offering plenty of hope for the character within his squad.
"The opposition are obviously a very good team [and] to be able to play with no subs for 50 or 55 minutes was a big effort," Brown said.
"I’m really happy with the boys. I wouldn’t say it’s our best performance this year ... but playing with group commitment is more beneficial than being technically sound with everything."
Walsh continuing to play above his age in face of adversity