The Titans could be without star fullback AJ Brimson for another three months after an initial stress fracture injury has developed into a full-blown broken back.
The 21-year-old missed the first two rounds of the season after being first injured at the NRL Nines, and has now had the best part of three months managing the issue.
Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook on Friday said Brimson's return time was still unknown but feared he may not be available until midway through the NRL's rescheduled season.
"We're hoping to have AJ back by August but I don't want to be committing to that because I thought he'd be right to play once we resume from our six weeks but now we're talking June and July as well," Holbrook said.
"And then its a matter of how quick he is healing as well."
Brimson will "definitely" miss the first few rounds when the NRL kicks off again from May 28, but the club remains hopeful the issue will not rule him out for the entire 2020 campaign.
Brimson out for bulk of season with back fracture
His breakout season was a rare bright spot for last year's wooden spooners, with Brimson rising to Australian Nines and Junior Kangaroos honours and landing himself a healthy two-year contract upgrade.
Holbrook said Brimson's injury could in fact "heal quicker if it becomes a full fracture", but the fullback's rehabilitation has also been hampered by COVID-19 restrictions.
Brimson returned to Titans HQ on Wednesday as his teammates resumed training but he did not partake in the session.
Like several players across the game over the past six weeks, his access to regular physio and injury treatment was not as frequent as during a normal season with NRL restrictions around club facilities until this week.
Speedster Phillip Sami is set to reclaim the No.1 jersey when play kicks off again from May 28.
It may yet prove a long-term appointment given an August return would mean Brimson would miss at least eight rounds in the NRL's restructured competition.
"It's become a full fracture," Holbrook said.
"He doesn't need surgery, nothing like that. When they're stress fractures they either mend from there or become a full fracture ... it's not like we've aggravated it or it's gotten worse, it can heal quicker if it becomes a full fracture.
"But in terms of what we can do, he's still in that rest period, so in terms of getting him up to speed to play rugby league it's not in the near future, that's why we're thinking August as a time frame."