The premiership aspirations of Brothers have been dealt a potentially fatal blow.
Captain Peter Little and centre Ethan MacKenzie have both been ruled out for the season following the loss to Southcity on Sunday.
Little has undergone surgery on a badly broken finger while MacKenzie ruptured his medial cruciate ligament.
Adding to their woes fullback Cade Price is sidelined with a stomach muscle tear.
It means four of their seven first-choice backs won’t take to the field against Young on Sunday with halfback Cameron Breust already out until the finals with an ankle injury.
Aaron Wynne also won’t face the Cherrypickers at Equex Centre after badly bruising his sternum against the Bulls and Connor McCauley is in doubt with a foot injury.
Coach Terry Westblade has been left devastated by the timing of their rising injury toll.
“It is really shattering news, but that is footy I guess” Westblade said.
“To cop these at this point of time where you want to be gearing up instead of gearing down.”
Brothers had just got back to full strength with forwards James Hay, Brayden Sharrock and Lloyd Bowen returning two weeks ago.
However the large injury list is a big dent on their chances this year, especially after losses to Southcity and Gundagai in the last month.
Brothers won 10 of their first 11 games before falling to the Tigers last month and dropping to second.
Calling on reinforcements, Westblade is looking to salvage what shaped as a big year for their club as they look to claim a second Group Nine title 23 years after their maiden one in 1995.
“It will be a good chance for someone to really go out an make a name for themselves,” he said.
“Everyone is capable of so much more than they think but sometimes it is just a case of having done it before and making yourself believe it.”
Little had two pins and a plate inserted to correct his finger.
The star five-eighth came off late in the first half only to return after the break to replace MacKenzie and played out the game.
Doctors were shocked at the damage done.
Little is taking over as coach next season and with his experience his absence is a massive blow.
“It will be a big loss,” Westblade said.
“His talk at training with the team and the input he has with them will be a huge loss.”
Brothers gave up a 18-6 half-time lead on Sunday and Westblade thought the absence of MacKenzie was a big reason for their poor defensive effort.
The 24-year-old did a fantastic job to contain Usaia O’Sullivan when the Brothers downed the Bulls earlier in the season and has been devastated by the season-ending injury.
“He’s been one of our best players all year,” Westblade said.
“He’s big and strong and has more of an impact than you realise.”
Westblade is hoping Price will only miss one or two weeks and can return in time for finals alongside Wynne.