The Queensland Reds will seek further advice on Taniela Tupou's injured calf in the hope he can return for the Super Rugby Pacific finals and be fit for July's Tests against England.
The "once in a generation" prop was injured in a scrum during the two-point loss to the Chiefs on Friday night that dropped the Reds out of the top four.
Scans on Sunday confirmed a strain, the Reds on Monday releasing a statement saying "he will seek further medical opinion ... but it is expected he will miss the remainder of a season" that concludes with a June 18 grand final.
However, it's understood there is hope Tupou can return for a finals run in June, while the three-Test series against England in July remains firmly on his radar.
The Reds will miss his scrum dominance and elite ball-carrying ability in the meantime, with Wallabies No.10 James O'Connor (knee) not returning until after this week's clash with the Highlanders.
The injury comes with Tupou in the midst of negotiating a new contract, while he is also expecting the birth of his first child.
"We're feeling for Nell," Reds second-rower Lukhan Salakaia-Loto said.
"He's hard to replace, a once in a generation type player, but we've got good depth there and trust in our boys so nothing changes for us.
"We're down for him, but at the same time he's got a lot of stuff going on off the field with a little baby boy on the way.
"It's probably also a good thing to get away and get a mental break before finals and a big Test season."
Salakaia-Loto has only just returned from a long-term ankle injury, while captains Tate McDermott and Liam Wright have missed chunks of the season.
The Reds have cycled through hookers while backline stars Jock Campbell, Suliasi Vunivalu and Jordan Petaia have also missed football, along with a host of other lower-profile squad members.
Vunivalu and Petaia both appeared untroubled by hamstring complaints that ruled them out of the weekend's game as they trained fully on Monday, in a sign they could be fit to face the Highlanders on Friday.
With Zane Nonggorr also injured, Albert Anae is expected to come into the squad as the reserve prop.
Ipswich Grammar product Anae -- who played 27 games for the Reds between 2011-14 -- had only just arrived at Ballymore as injury cover, having played club rugby in Japan since 2016.