A gladiator sport, the beginning of this year's Eastern long-weekend NRL slate has already presented us with a bevvy of injuries that will likely send shockwaves throughout their respective clubs.

The Brisbane Broncos fought strong in the first half with the reigning Premiers last night, eventually falling to the Panthers 40-16.

Outside of the Panthers showing us exactly why they're the hottest team in this early 2022 season, and an awkward tackle from superstar halfback Nathan Cleary, the biggest news out of last night's game is the injury to fullback Tesi Niu and what this could mean for the Broncos number one jersey moving forward.

RELATED: NRL announce charge for Cleary

Niu, who was playing his best game of the year for the Broncos, was assisted off the field just prior to halftime with a suspected hamstring injury.

Only 20 years old, Niu had just recovered from a grade 2 hamstring strain suffered earlier this year.

While the severity of Niu's injury has yet to be revealed, the young Bronco is expected to be sidelined for at least 2 to 4 weeks.

This presents the struggling Brisbane side an opportunity to test a change that has been looming since the side's slow start out of the gate this season.

Fans and pundits have been calling for the replacement of Niu by young buck and Bronco's winger, Selwyn Cobbo.

RELATED: NRL legend proposes big change to fix Broncos attack

The 19-year-old flyer has been tipped as the Broncos future number one for a while, however, the club seemed content with letting him develop this season before giving him full-time fullback duties.

Last night's injury may have fast-tracked the switch for Cobbo though, as he slotted into the side's number one after Niu was walked off the field.

While the scoreboard read 6-6 when Niu was ruled out of the game, the Broncos were eventually downed 40-12.

Cobbo's impact on the game and his influence on the side's eventual crumbling shouldn't be used as a litmus test for his potential at the position though.

Rather, the dual sin-binning of Brisbane's Keenan Palasia and Penrith's Dylan Edwards should be seen as the tipping point for the visiting side, as the Panthers were the clear beneficiaries of the spaced-out 10 minutes of game time.

The Cobbo experience is likely to continue with Niu sidelined, however, a decision will need to be made by coach Kevin Walters when the original number one is ready to put back on the jersey.

Walters sounded off on the injury to Niu and what his likely omission from the side will mean in the coming weeks.

“Tesi has a hamstring problem,” Walters said post-match.

“He won’t be available next week. I’m not sure how long he will be out for.

“He was just starting to find his touch as well at the back and that is such a key position for the side so that was a blow for us as well.”

The Bulldogs also had a rough day out at Accor Stadium, as they went down to the South Sydney Rabbitohs 36-16.

The Bulldogs, who have been unable to earn a win since their 6-4 victory over the Cowboys in Round 1, walked away from last night's game with more than just the weight of another loss though.

Attempting to tackle South's captain Cameron Murray, counterpart Josh Jackson and second-row Chris Patolo clashed heads resulting in the latter being taken from the field for HIA and the former bandaged up after seeing red.

Patolo is expected to enter concussion protocol and will be in doubt for the Bulldog's must-win game against the Bronco's next week.

Despite this sickening head clash, the Bulldog's ward continued to grow as centre Braidon Burns was taken from the field just prior to halftime after attempting to chase down South's speedster Damien Cook before looking like he suffered a hamstring injury.

Patolo was a late addition to the side following the omission of Bulldog's mainstay second-row Corey Waddell. If Waddell is able to return for next week's bout against the Broncos this likely won't hurt them too much.

Brandon Wakeham was also the bandaid placed on the Bulldog's right side as he went in for the injured Burns.