The NRL Indigenous All Stars have been dealt a "massive blow" with veteran half Cody Walker ruled out with injury.
Walker's late admission comes after injuring his calf during training last week and is joined by recent withdrawals of fellow Rabbitoh Isaiah Tass and Titans forward and PNG international Jacob Alick, as confirmed at the weekend.
It offers QRL half and PNG Kumuls Pacific Championship captain Kyle Laybutt an opportunity for his first Indigenous All Stars appearance alongside Brian Kelly and Zac Fulton as incoming reinforcements.
"I spoke to him before I boarded a flight from Brisbane; he told me he did his calf and was out," Indigenous men's side coach Ronald Griffiths said of the news around Walker, via Sydney Morning Herald.
"It's a massive blow for us and a massive blow for Cody because he's a player who makes himself available every year.
"He loves the game and that passion and leadership exudes out of him when he plays."
It's also thrown Walker's availability for Souths' NRL opener against Manly Warringah in Las Vegas into doubt.
Walker was set to run out as captain again in 2024, with a replacement to lead the side yet to be confirmed.
The 34-year-old proved his credentials for top honours with a strong performance for NSW in game three of last year's State of Origin series on recall to the Blues team after last playing in 2020.
Sharks duo Nicho Hynes and Braydon Trindall are expected to fill the halves pairing in Townsville.
Trindall finished Cronulla's 2023 season as first choice five-eighth and started the Indigenous All Stars win this time last year on the bench.
For the Māori All Stars men's team, Jacob Gagai and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak have been replaced by Jojo Fifita and Keenan Palasia after late withdrawals of their own.
The NRL All Stars fixtures kick off with a mixed touch football game before the women's and men's games at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Friday.