Danny Buderus' NRL career is almost certainly over after the veteran hooker suffered a suspected ruptured bicep in Newcastle's 38-24 win over North Queensland last night.
The Knights captain, who will join Super League club Leeds Rhinos next season, was forced from the field with ten minutes to go at EnergyAustralia Stadium and it is feared the injury could keep him out for six months.
The timing of the injury is a cruel blow to the 30-year-old, who was set to be officially farewelled after 12 years with the Knights at next Saturday's home game against reigning premiers Melbourne.
Buderus was holding back tears as he left the stadium with wife Kris tonight and did not wish to front the media, but Knights coach Brian Smith confirmed things did not look good.
"I think the doctors pretty much know how to estimate the damage there off the bat when it's as bad as it apparently is," Smith said.
"I guess everything there is subject to the scanning and all that ... but it certainly isn't good.
"It would depend on how bad it is, but if it requires surgery it's a six-month injury."
Smith said if anyone deserved a more fitting farewell, it was the gutsy Test and NSW stalwart, who has played 220 games for the Knights.
"The game can be very cruel," Smith said.
"Not many people get to go out on their own terms in this sport and that would be very sad for him if he missed a big farewell.
"I'm sure the club would still give him a magnificent farewell but it's not the way he would like to have gone out, he'd like to go out with his boots on I'm sure."
Buderus' injury also came as a significant blow to Newcastle's finals hopes, after tonight's win kept them alive, moving momentarily into eighth.
They did it the hard way, holding off a spirited North Queensland fightback after leading 30-0 at halftime.
It was Buderus who started the first-half onslaught by scoring the fastest try of the season after 48 seconds, before Adam MacDougall, Wes Naiqama and James McManus and Jarrod Mullen added four pointers in the first half.
Test halfback Johnathan Thurston then sparked the unlikely Cowboys revival after the break as two tries to Luke O'Donnell, and others to Ty Williams and Aaron Payne got the visitors within reach of the biggest comeback in NRL history.
The Knights managed to hold on, with Mullen scoring a second and fullback Kurt Gidley kicking a penalty goal to give him seven from seven for the night and seal the win.
Smith did not think Buderus' injury would hurt the Knights' confidence heading into the finals, believing it would more likely galvanise the group.
Gidley promised the Knights would throw everything at the Storm next week in Buderus' honour.
"Next week is such a big occasion for the Newcastle club, with all the ex-players coming back into town," Gidley said.
"Me personally, I'll be having a chat to the boys and trying extra hard to try and get this game up for Bedsy and also getting in the semis because I know how proud he would be watching on the sidelines."
Saturday's NRL results:
Newcastle 34 North Queensland 24
Parramatta 26 Bulldogs 12
Manly 48 Wests Tigers 16