The Cronulla Sharks will reportedly be without star player Josh Dugan for their do-or-die clash with the Penrith Panthers.
Channel Nine reporter Danny Weidler broke the news via Twitter, confirming the 28-year-old will miss the NRL semi-final fixture.
In Dugan’s absence, it is expected Jesse Ramien will step up and fill the vacant position.
The cause of Dugan’s late exclusion is currently unknown, with a shoulder injury likely to be at the centre of it.
Just hours earlier coach Shane Flanagan said the club had no concerns about Dugan’s headspace following his emotional outburst to a packed media scrum on Tuesday.
The former NSW and Australian centre fought back tears as he detailed how he had worked to repair his battered reputation but felt he’d been permanently tarred after being sacked by Canberra in 2013.
“The whole club has (rallied around him),” Flanagan said.
“With all our players we’ve got to make sure they’re okay. They’re big and strong but sometimes we need to look a little bit deeper.
“It’s come out and we can address it now at another level. We have been addressing it but we can address it at another level.”
Flanagan said Dugan’s comments highlighted the importance of mental health and encouraging young men to talk about their struggles.
The loss of Dugan is a huge blow for the Sharks with Flanagan declaring his experience vital to their chances.
His loss is offset by the availability of centre Jesse Ramien, who returns from an ankle injury.
Asked if there was any risk in playing the 21-year-old in a finals game after missing the last three weeks, Flanagan said: “Not at all.
“He’s a quality player, he’s been in our team all year and he’ll probably just miss out on getting rookie of the year.”
It has been a tough week for Dugan, after he broke down in his first interview since coming under fire for criticising a News Corp journalist.
Speaking after yet another tumultuous period in his career, the former NSW Origin star was clearly rattled by the negative press he’s been receiving.
First, Dugan refused to answer a question about the podcast which saw Andrew Fifita and himself reprimanded for abusing News Corp journalist Buzz Rothfield.
“I’ve got nothing to say about it,” Dugan said.
From there, the physical centre went into detail about why he didn’t want to cooperate with the media, calling himself an easy target – ever since getting fired by the Raiders in 2013 following a string of off-field incidents.
“I’ve been an easy target since 2013 and I can’t see that changing,” Dugan said.
“That’s when I got sacked from Canberra, everyone’s going to have that opinion of me every since then, it’s never gonna change.
“Doesn’t matter how much stuff I do outside of footy, I raised over 15 grand for a young boy not that long ago, visited him in hospital, you don’t hear about that.
“It’s only the bad stuff for me, I’m used to it.”