Manly coach Trent Barrett fears star fullback Tom Trbojevic's season could be over and labelled the mid-air tackle that caused the injury "dangerous" after his side gave up a 14-0 lead to go down 24-14 to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The key architect as Manly stunned the Broncos with a 14-point onslaught in the opening nine minutes, Trbojevic's State of Origin dreams, and potentially finals campaign with the Sea Eagles, came crashing down to earth just as his left knee and ankle buckled beneath him.
Leaping high to rein in an Andrew McCullough bomb that had bounced well above his head, Trbojevic was legally tackled in mid-air by Broncos winger David Mead, losing the ball as he fell heavily to the ground with the Broncos going on to score their second try through Corey Oates.
Well and truly in the reckoning for a maiden New South Wales jersey in little more than two weeks' time, Barrett is now crossing his fingers that after he receives a full diagnosis upon his return to Sydney that Trbojevic will get back on the field this year.
"It's dangerous. He could be gone for the year, I don't know," Barrett said, emphasising that the ankle injury was of greater concern than the injury to his knee.
"Not only has it cost us a game but it costs us one of our best players.
"If it was on the full and he was in the air that doesn't happen or it's a penalty and it's a no try and we probably win.
"It's going to rarely happen but the game ain't black and white. There's a lot of grey areas in it. That one, I think if it was disallowed I don't think too many people would have said much to be honest."
"It is a funny one because he's tackled in the air but it's bounced; what's the difference? I don't write the rule book but he's pretty badly hurt."
Leading 14-6 when Trbojevic jumped into the air, Manly's lead was cut to two in the seconds that followed, and two minutes later Brisbane poked their noses in front for the first time when halfback Kodi Nikorima extricated the ball from between Jorge Taufua's legs after the Manly winger knocked on from a kick return and ran 30 metres to score.
"Our first half was really good and there were a couple of freakish tries that went against us that were just unlucky and swung the game in their favour. And then losing Tom in that same play was pretty tough to take. We didn't deserve to lose that," Barrett said.
"The dropped ball with Jorge was like a cartoon.
"To lose a game on the back of two incidents like that is very hard to take but we've got to look at the positives too."
Unwilling to talk about his Origin prospects in the wake of the loss, Sea Eagles skipper Daly Cherry-Evans agreed with Barrett that the two-minute period midway through the second half changed the entire complexion of the game.
"Everyone was just concerned. We're all very mindful of each other so to see a teammate go down injured is not ideal at all, especially one of our more influential players in the side," Cherry-Evans said.
"At 14-0 up it's hard not to think that things aren't ticking along very nicely. I thought we played some good football into the second half as well.
"As Trent elaborated on it only took two tries and two very, very unusual tries for it to change the game.
"It's disappointing but it's definitely stuff we can fix which is the most exciting part."
This article first appeared on NRL.com