Moments after coach Anthony Seibold saluted Jack Bird's triumphant return from a serious knee injury, the Brisbane star suffered a second ACL tear in as many years.
Broncos medical staff said Bird was likely to undergo surgery after scans confirmed their worst fears on Wednesday afternoon, just days before their NRL season opener.
Seibold had been full of praise for Bird before Broncos training on Wednesday after the former NSW star returned to career best fitness, earning first shot at the No.1 jersey in Friday's derby clash with North Queensland.
Then disaster struck.
Bird's left knee buckled underneath him in a tackle and he left the field in distress.
It is the same knee that required a reconstruction after he broke down in round nine last year.
"Rugby league is a cruel game sometimes," Seibold said in a statement after scans confirmed the devastating news.
"Jack's commitment to his rehabilitation has been unwavering in his return from his last knee injury.
"He has had a tremendous pre-season and ticked all the boxes required for a great start to the year.
"All of his teammates and the staff at the Broncos are devastated at the timing and nature of the injury.
"The club will do our best to help Jack in his recovery and personal wellbeing and provide him with everything he needs."
Bird has been no stranger to injury, restricted to just 17 matches since moving from Cronulla to Red Hill before the 2018 season.
Yet the latest blow appeared to be the cruellest for Bird, and the Broncos.
"He's really important to us. In some ways he is like a new recruit for us," Seibold said before Wednesday's session.
"The thing I like about Bird is that he has been resilient over the rehab process and had a hell of a pre-season.
"It is a well deserved (No.1) jersey for Birdy and all the hard work that he has done."
Speaking to the media just days earlier, a rejuvenated Bird sounded so confident that he had finally ended his injury jinx that he joked he would not cut his questionable mullet until after round 10 this year.
"I haven't got past round 10 the last two years so once I get past round 10 without an injury, I'll cut it," he said.
Jamayne Isaako - initially set to come off the bench - will now play fullback against the Cowboys.
It's another injury blow for Brisbane who have also lost prop Matt Lodge (knee) and new captain Alex Glenn (hamstring), ensuring the reins will be shared by club debutant Brodie Croft and 19-game forward Pat Carrigan on Friday.