Tom Trbojevic’s NRL return turned into a nightmare after a shoulder injury put his State of Origin hopes in doubt and Manly were thumped 42-24 by Gold Coast.
In his first game back since tearing his hamstring three months ago, Trbojevic lasted just 63 minutes before succumbing to a shoulder injury that needs scans.
The 23-year-old bravely fought on after trying to make a last-line-of-defence tackle on AJ Brimson, before succumbing nine minutes later.
There were initial hopes from Manly it was only a burner, but there are now fears of rotator cuff damage with the superstar fullback in for scans late on Saturday night.
“It’s probably a rotator cuff or something like that, but we won’t know until he gets scans tonight,” said Manly coach Des Hassler.
“When you lose a bit of feeling it could be a number of things.
“He probably thought he could work it off a little, but at that stage there was no point persisting.
“It was probably best to get him off.”
It comes at the worst possible time for Trbojevic.
Manly won’t take any risks with him in the final round, which now doubles as his last chance to impress NSW coach Brad Fittler.
He looked particularly rusty at the back, with two of his four errors coming after the shoulder blow.
His presence in attack helped Manly score one try as he drew in two defenders off the ball, while he also helped chase down Titans flyer Treymain Spry Sprei to deny him a 90-metre intercept try.
But on other occasions his lay off showed, failing to shadow a grubber dead to allow Kevin Proctor to score and fumbling a poor Tevita Funa pass in the lead up to another Titans try.
Regardless, Manly were completely outplayed by a Gold Coast side who put on their equal-highest score in their 14-year history.
The Titans have now won four straight for the first time since 2014, and are ninth on the ladder after being tipped by most to collect the wooden spoon.
Brimson bagged a double, including an 80-metre effort that left referee Matt Noyen with an injured hamstring after Young Tonumaipea found his fullback from a 20-metre tap.
Tonumaipea also claimed a brace, making the most of a 60-metre intercept from Corey Thompson for his second.
Thompson finished the game off with a hamstring injury after earlier scoring one of his own, while hooker Mitch Rein suffered a badly damaged eye socket.
Sam Stone and Spry scored the Titans’ others, as they went from 6-0 down to 42-12 leaders.
“I was really proud of everything we did in the first half,” coach Justin Holbrook said.
“To end up with a pretty dominant win today I am really happy to make it four in a row.
“And we probably left a couple out there too.”
The result means Manly will finish the year with just one win from seven games at Brookvale, making for their worst winning percentage at the ground in history.