The race is on for Cooper Cronk to face former club Melbourne in next Sunday's NRL grand final after scans confirmed a serious shoulder injury for the Sydney Roosters' star halfback.
Cronk will be given until just before kick-off next Sunday to prove his fitness for what would be his eighth grand final, after it was revealed he'd suffered a "severe" rotator cuff injury which threatens to limit the movement of his left arm.
Rehabilitation began almost immediately for Cronk, who spent the majority of the second half of the Roosters' 12-4 preliminary final win over South Sydney with his left arm hanging by his side.
Brought to the Tri-colours to win a premiership, the 34-year-old must now defy the odds to play in the decider against his former Storm teammates.
Players have missed between one and five weeks with similar injuries in recent years depending on the severity, including the month Johnathan Thurston missed before last year's State of Origin series.
But none of those players were fighting to be fit for a grand final.
Cronk copped a shot from Sam Burgess during the first-half before being ironed out by opposite No.7 Adam Reynolds as he attempted a field goal on the half-time siren.
At one point he was thrown the ball to take a kick for touch and could be seen telling his teammates: "I can't".
But Roosters players were confident the man known for being one of the most meticulous in the NRL would fight his way back to play.
"Everyone knows how professional he is," Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary said after Saturday's win.
"He just gets it done with no fuss about him and he does what he has to do every week.
"I'd imagine if it's like what Johnathan Thurston did in Origin (in 2017 when he was ruled out for the season) he probably won't play.
"But if they give him a chance, he's going to play."
If Cronk is ruled out, Keary has already declared he is ready to take over the reigns at No.7 with Ryan Matterson likely to slot into five-eighth.
Cronk was at least protected by his defenders around him in Saturday night's win, forced to make just 11 tackles by the Rabbitohs - with only five of those in the second half.
Burgess ran at Cronk on a couple of occasions while Junior Tatola whacked him with a late shot, for which the Rabbitohs were penalised.
And the fact Cronk was able to hold on left his teammates with hope.
"He was tackling still, so I think he will be right this week," winger Blake Ferguson said.
"I know the character of him. He'll do anything for the team. He was still tackling. It wasn't like he was missing tackles or anything.
"Cooper is a great player and he will put the team first before anything. For me, it is good to see that."
Australian Associated Press