Queensland have suffered a massive blow in their bid to win their seventh straight State of Origin series with fullback Billy Slater almost certain to miss the deciding match in Brisbane.
The Storm custodian injured his left knee in Wednesday night's 16-12 loss to NSW and scans on Thursday afternoon confirmed he's likely to be sidelined for at least four weeks.
With the series-deciding clash held in Brisbane on July 4, the 28-year-old appears to have little hope of making it back in time after bravely battling through the full 80 minutes in Sydney.
Melbourne's medical staff said in a statement that Slater had suffered a grade-three posterior cruciate ligament injury, but won't require surgery.
Slater's likely absence could pave the way for Greg Inglis or Darius Boyd to drop back to fullback, or for Canterbury livewire Ben Barba to come into the starting side.
Slater, who felt the injury cut his pace back to 75 per cent, was confident on Wednesday night that the injury wouldn't prevent him playing in the Suncorp Stadium encounter.
"I'm hoping it's not long - not three weeks anyway," said Slater.
"Obviously, I want to be there for game three - that's the short term goal. I'd really like to be there for that."
Slater was put through a fitness test in the dressing room during the halftime break by Queensland team doctor Roy Saunders before being allowed to return to the field.
Brisbane forward Corey Parker also headed home after undergoing surgery on Wednesday night to close a gaping leg laceration that has him also in doubt for the series decider.
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