Queensland may have been dealt a major blow after AJ Brimson aggravated a left knee injury in the Gold Coast’s 38-10 NRL loss to Cronulla.
Brimson, who is believed to have initially suffered the injury against Brisbane a month ago, looked well below his best in Coffs Harbour on Sunday before limping off in the 55th minute.
The incumbent Queensland fullback, who was in contention to be picked when the Maroons team for Game I is named on Monday, could now be doubt for the series opener.
Titans coach Justin Holbrook was unsure about the extend of Brimson’s injury.
“He got his knee banged up again. There’s some bone bruising, which is what he got earlier. He’s done that again,” he said.
Another possible Queensland candidate, Gold Coast front-rower Moeaki Fotuaika, could also be ruled out after he was involved in a first-half lifting tackle that was put on report.
Their potential Queensland absences compounded a sorry afternoon for the inconsistent Titans, who have now conceded at least 36 points four times in their opening 12 games of the season.
The Sharks’ emphatic display not only ensured star Shaun Johnson celebrated his 200th game milestone with a win, but breathed fresh life into what had so far been a miserable campaign.
A week after caretaker Josh Hannay guided his team to their first victory since the controversial axing of John Morris, Cronulla have now gone back-to-back and are within a win of the top eight.
The Titans defence showed little resistance against the Sharks attack, with winger Ronaldo Mulitalo bagging a double on the left and centre Jesse Ramien having a field day down the right.
Ramien was arguably Cronulla’s best, busting a team-high nine tackles, offloading four times, setting up two lines, carrying the ball for 153 metres and icing it off with a try.
The only blemish was being cited for making high contact on Phillip Sami late in the game.
“Comfortably Jessie’s best game of the year, and possibly best game for some time,” Hannay said.
“I thought he was a threat out there every time he got the football.
“It’s good to see, when a game’s open like that, good strike centres get some early ball.
“It’s a bit of old-school footy there. You don’t see that too often in today’s game.”
The Sharks forward pack also made easy inroads into the Gold Coast middle, allowing the new scrumbase combination of Johnson and Matt Moylan to enjoy plenty of space to create havoc.
Up 26-6 at halftime, hooker Jayden Brailey and winger Connor Tracey also got on the scoresheet as the hosts cruised to their fourth win of the season.
Gold Coast drew first blood when Brian Kelly seized on a Tanah Boyd grubber kick, but that was all the joy they’d have in the first half as the Sharks took full advantage of their porous defence.
After Ramien try levelled the contest, the sin-binning of Tino Fa’asuamaleaui for repeated infringements opened the door for Cronulla to set up the victory.
A Johnson penalty goal was quickly followed by Mulitalo going in for his first try and not even the binning of Will Chambers would stop their momentum.
Johnson and Moylan had the ball on the string, taking turns cutting up the Titans defence and putting Mulitalo and Jack Williams over for a commanding 20-point halftime lead.
“I’m really disappointing in us,” Holbrook said.
“We’re just gun shy in defence. We’re not defending with any confidence and the game’s getting away from us.”