NORTH Queensland juggernaut Jason Taumalolo has been ruled out of Saturday's clash with Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium, presenting the Knights with an ideal opportunity to end their six-game losing streak.
Taumalolo, who has a foot injury, will join suspended lock Josh Mcguire on the sidelines.
Adding to the Cowboys' woes, another of their international forwards, former Storm prop Jordan McLean, is no certainty to return from a calf problems.
McLean was a late withdrawal from the team who lost in the last minute against Brisbane last weekend.
That defeat was North Queensland's seventh in the past eight games and left them 13th on the ladder, two points behind Newcastle and five behind the top eight.
News that Taumalolo is unavailable will come as a massive relief for the Knights.
The Tongan giant is widely regarded as the NRL's most destructive forward, and has been averaging more than 200 attacking metres and 29 tackles per game this season.
"He's got a foot problem, so that's extremely disappointing," Cowboys assistant coach David Fairleigh told media on Thursday.
"I don't think there's anyone in the competition that can replace what Jase does for us, so that leaves a huge hole in our team and we're just going to put faith and confidence in the guys that come in and do the job."
"I have no idea how serious it is.
"That's one of the things the medical staff have been working overtime on to get him ready as quick as possible."
Fairleigh indicated a decision on McLean would be made on Friday.
"Jordan's still got a bit of an issue there," he said.
"He's got to get through training and then when, and if that happens, we'll sit down and work out what the side is."
McGuire pleaded guilty this week to grade-two contrary conduct and was suspended for three weeks for his "facial" on Brisbane forward David Fifita.
Saturday's appearance will be the Cowboys first in Newcastle since 2015.
The Knights desperately need a win to keep alive their slim hopes of scraping into the final eight.