Promising young Knights forward Jirah Momoisea has been struck down by the club's injury curse and faces six months on the sideline after rupturing his Achilles tendon during a routine training drill.
Momoisea, who was close to making his debut in the NRL last season, is unlikely to return before June and could potentially miss the opening 14 rounds of the premiership.
The Auckland-raised 22-year-old, who played rugby union until he was 17, has been used as both a middle forward and edge backrower in the lower grades since arriving at the club from the Melbourne Storm in 2018.
He signed a development deal the following season before being promoted to the club's top 30 squad in 2020. He is currently contracted until the end of 2022.
"It's really bad luck for him," Knights CEO Phil Gardner told the Newcastle Herald.
"It's the same injury that Connor [Watson] is returning from and he's going to be out until June by the looks of things which is really disappointing."
Momoisea's huge setback continues the wretched injury run the club has faced since coach Adam O'Brien came into the job last season.
In his first season in charge, O'Brien lost star hooker Jayden Brailey for the year in round two and Watson, Blake Green and Andrew McCullough also suffered season-ending injuries.
The likes of Mitch Barnett, Bradman Best, Daniel Saifiti and Sione Mata'utia were also severely hampered by injuries during a season where O'Brien was forced to use 30 players in the top grade.
O'Brien was desperately hoping for a change of fortune heading into his second season in charge and had high hopes for 109kg Momoisea, who was close to earning a bench spot towards the back end of last season.
Meanwhile, Gardner said the club is confident their trial against defending premiers Melbourne Storm in Melbourne late next month will go ahead despite the uncertainty surrounding COVIC.
It will be the Knights only pre-season trial before the premiership kicks off following a directive to all clubs from the NRL.
"At this stage, it is looking like it will happen if the current COVID safety measures don't get any worse," he said.
"But it may be that the community engagement we were planning down there to promote the game may not go ahead beforehand and we may just travel to play the game. That's the situation at this stage and hopefully, that won't change.
"Melbourne has agreed to come up here to trial next year as part of the arrangement we have with them and given Adam's close relationship with Craig Bellamy (Storm coach) there is no doubt they will both be playing their strongest possible squads."
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