Barnstorming Wests Tigers winger Taniela Tuiaki's NRL career could be over in a matter of weeks after another round of specialist appointments provided little hope of a full recovery from his debilitating ankle injury.
Tuiaki, the club's leading tryscorer in 2009, failed to take the field for the Tigers last year.
He had hoped to make it back this season after extending his contract until the end of 2011.
"It's been an unfortunate injury for the big fella and I'd like to think he'll get back but reality says from the doctors that it might not happen," Tigers coach Tim Sheens told reporters on Monday.
"Until that is a definite from the specialists we'll just have to sit and wait.
"He's had two specialists look at it, he's had a number of surgeries and so we have to weigh it all up, probably in the next couple of weeks.
"He's in a bit of strife and the specialists will determine what the next move is - cartilage transplants, rests, whatever, they've tried lots of things."
The devastating news for the 28-year-old could open the door for another Kiwi international, former Canterbury winger Matt Utai, to revive his NRL career.
Utai has been training with the Tigers and the decision on Tuiaki will have a major bearing on whether the ex-Bulldog picks up a contract.
"That probably is an insurance," Sheens said.
"Keeping as much depth as we can is important so if we do lose the big fella I'll want to have another option there."
Mitch Brown, Beau Ryan and Geoff Daniela would also vie for the right wing position, with Test star Lote Tuqiri having a mortgage on the left.
Meanwhile, Tigers English international Gareth Ellis is the latest star to be ruled out of next month's All Stars clash.
Ellis has an ongoing groin injury which the Tigers hope won't require surgery.
"We just want to be sure that doesn't become a nagging thing that plagues him through the year and leads to surgery," Sheens said.
"At the moment we don't think surgery."
On the positive side for the Tigers, talented utility Tim Moltzen has completed an entire pre-season after undergoing a knee reconstruction last year.
"He's got his strength back in his knee, got his speed back and he's looking really good," centre Chris Lawrence said.
The Tigers play trials against North Queensland in Townsville on February 11, Parramatta at Campbelltown on February 19 and the Sydney Roosters at the Sydney Football Stadium on February 26.