Charlestown Azzurri will start any revised Northern NSW NPL season next month without striker Scott Smith, while three other players will not take part at all.
Smith, a former competition top scorer, hurt his back in a mountain bike fall on Sunday. He is set to be sidelined for two months, meaning he won't be ready for the proposed July 11-12 start of the region's first-division men's soccer competition.
The sport nationwide was suspended because of COVID-19 in March on the eve of the NNSW NPL season.
The 10 clubs and Northern NSW Football have agreed on a new 13-round season, with top-five finals, if government restrictions are eased to allow for senior competition. Under-18 sport in NSW has been given the green light to return on July 1 but seniors remain in limbo.
Azzurri coach Graham Law said Smith's accident came after the loss of midfielder Lachlan Pasquale, Japanese attacker Rio Nishiura and defender Zac Bailey.
Pasquale has withdrawn because of work commitments, Nishiura is unable to return to Australia because of travel restrictions and Bailey, a former Jets Youth centre-back who was announced as a signing only a month ago, is focusing on starting a law degree.
"Scott Smith came off his mountain bike yesterday and he's done a vertebra. He'll be out for two months," Law said. "By the time the season starts, he might only miss a couple of weeks ... or maybe a month, but that's how it goes. We'll manage."
Law conceded his squad was "a bit light" after the losses but he was happy with his first-choice line-up.
"It's just that depth that I'm missing now," he said.
Meanwhile, Law said his players were set to receive at least 20 per cent of promised payments this season.
Clubs have been revising their budgets in the wake of sponsorship cuts and likely loss of crowds for the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Broadmeadow, Lake Macquarie and Adamstown have made the decision to not pay players this year. Most clubs are considering a reduction to about a third of original player payments as they wait for word from NNSWF on revised fees before finalising budgets.
The Newcastle Rugby League and Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union premierships have been abandoned because of concerns over the financial danger to clubs of playing without match-day revenue from crowds.
"I think our boys are going to take 20 per cent," Law said.
"I just wanted my boys to have clarity so they knew. The club is waiting to see how much sponsorship they get in but I just wanted to have a guaranteed minimum because we're back training.
"The boys are back into it. They did Tuesday and Thursday and then they wanted an extra session, so they did Saturday. The boys are fit and they are keen."
Clubs have returned to modified, non-contact training under COVID-19 restrictions, which allow for sessions featuring groups of 10 people or less.