St George Illawarra remain hopeful Gareth Widdop will feature again for the Dragons in 2019 despite the shoulder injury he suffered in Thursday night's victory over the Broncos.
After losing their first two games, the side kick-started their season with a one-point win thanks to a Corey Norman field goal at the death.
The victory came at a cost, however, with the Dragons skipper dislocating his right shoulder late in the piece. It was the same shoulder he dislocated twice in 2018.
Given Widdop is returning to England at the end of the season, there were immediate fears he will not play for the club again.
Widdop is due for scans which will reveal the full extent of the damage, with hopes high a shoulder reconstruction will not be required.
Speaking on Friday after the win, prop Paul Vaughan was hopeful he would line up alongside his captain later in the season.
"I hope I haven't payed my last game with him," Vaughan said. "I love the bloke and it's obviously not what you want. They're getting scans and they'll probably find out from there.
"It's a terrible thing to happen, especially to our skipper. He wants to go off on a real high note and I'm sure he will do that, it's just a bit of a roadblock at the moment."
Depending on the result of scans, Widdop could be forced to undergo a shoulder reconstruction immediately, which would rule him out for six months and leave him in a race to be fit for the finals.
The best-case scenario for Widdop would be three to six weeks on the sidelines with rehab and no surgery.
This is the route Widdop took in 2018 after his first dislocation, suffered against the Eels in round 22. After three weeks out, he returned for the Dragons elimination final against the Broncos.
That return turned sour in the second half, when Widdop dislocated the same shoulder, and he went on to undergo a reconstruction.
Vaughan acknowledged Widdop is a key figure in the team, however he's confident the Dragons can overcome his absence.
"Personally for myself, when I first moved up here, he had a big impact. He's obviously a great club skipper and gets the boys together, all that kind of stuff.
"He's just a class player, on the field he's got that X-factor and off the field he's a great bloke, got a great family, he's such an influential part of the club. It's disappointing, but he'll still be around the boys, getting us fired up every week."
Whereas the Dragons were without a readymade replacement in 2018, that will not be the case this season.
The arrival of Corey Norman in the off-season and retention of Matt Dufty will see Dufty slot straight into the fullback position. Hooker Cameron McInnes has full confidence Dufty will pick up where he left off last season.
"He's our captain and one of the best players in the world," McInnes said of Widdop. "So obviously there's an impact, but having Corey and Matt Dufty come into the side, it's a great luxury to have.
"We'll miss our skipper for sure, but until he's back, and I don't know what the time frame is, we'll just have to keep competing and doing our best.
"Matt was our fullback all last year, so I'm very comfortable with him in the side, as we all are, and Corey, he's one of the best halves in the game, so I feel very comfortable playing with all of them."
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