Scott Drinkwater will undergo surgery, ending his hopes of starting the NRL season in Billy Slater's vacant Melbourne Storm fullback jersey.
The 21-year-old was in the box seat before rupturing his pectoral muscle during the Storm's pre-season loss to North Queensland in Mackay on Saturday night.
Melbourne issued a statement on Monday after scans confirmed the diagnosis and said Drinkwater would see a surgeon this week and would be out for at least three months.
It's a huge blow for the Storm with Drinkwater among their best performers through the pre-season to press his claims following Slater's retirement.
He made his NRL debut last season in round 25 when Slater was out for personal reasons and looked right at home, scoring a try.
Jahrome Hughes is now set to start in the No.1 role for their round one match against Brisbane on March 14 at AAMI Park.
Hughes missed Saturday's trial loss with a slight calf injury but turned out for New Zealand Maori in last month's All Stars match and played at fullback five times for Melbourne last year for two tries and two try assists.
© AAP 2019