Gold Coast's chances of bouncing back from last year's wooden spoon have been dealt a major blow with star AJ Brimson ruled out indefinitely with a back injury.
Before the season was suspended because of the coronavirus, Brimson missed the opening two rounds with a stress fracture in his back.
However Titans coach Justin Holbrook on Friday confirmed his fullback has progressed to a full fracture, blowing his recovery out as late as August.
"The initial thoughts when we had the six-week isolation was it'd be great at giving him a chance to fully recover and get back," Holbrook said.
"But we were a bit off the mark there.
"It's been a tough one for AJ to get over and the best thing for him was the rest period. He won't play within the first few games back at least."
Holbrook insisted the 21-year-old doesn't require surgery, and that the development isn't uncommon among players with similar injuries.
Nor did Brimson aggravate the issue.
"He's just still in that rest period," Holbrook said.
"In terms of then getting up to speed to play rugby league, which as we know how hard a contact sport it is, it's not in the near future.
"That's why we're thinking more August as a timeframe, but then as the weeks go by, we'll get a better judgement. In terms of May, definitely not."
The setback is a cruel blow for Holbrook, who is in his first year as an NRL head coach and lost his opening two games before the shutdown.
He also lost captain Ryan James to an ACL injury in late January.
Holbrook said he would use the two-week lead-up to the competition's re-start on May 28 to consider who would wear the No.1 jumper in the immediate future.
Phillip Sami deputised for Brimson over the opening two rounds, however Holbook lowered expectations for the winger.
"Obviously I hadn't planned on Phil being there long-term," he said.
"Outstanding player, Phil Sami. But it's very hard to learn a position when you're playing it at NRL level. You're not learning it coming through the grades.
"Difficult task for him. If he's the best choice, we'll run with it, but I will have to look at it closely once we get our team stuff starting next week."