MACQUARIE’S best start to a Newcastle Rugby League season in more than a decade has been tempered by the sidelining of boom fullback Nathan Cantor and halfback Mick Moran.
Cantor strained the medial ligament in his knee 15 minutes into the Scorpions’ breakthrough 22-4 victory over Western Suburbs at Harker Oval on Sunday.
He returned to the field later in the game and attempted to play on, but scans revealed the extent of the damage and he is out for a month.
Since joining Macquarie from Aberdeen this season, the former Central Hunter Power representative has been among the Scorpions’ best in their five wins from six matches.
Moran suffered a grade-two ligament tear in his ankle at Tuesday’s training session and is out for a fortnight.
The in-form duo join props Brendan Simpson (broken thumb), Luke Young (broken hand), Simonie Sawanie (personal reasons) and Heath Hodges (anterior cruciate ligament) on the unavailable list for today’s game against Kurri Kurri at Peacock Field.
‘‘You get over Wyong and Wests and start to get a bit of momentum going, but you can’t whinge about it,’’ Macquarie coach Noel Dent said.
‘‘Losing Cantor, Moran, Simpson, they’re the three blokes who have been playing really good footy, so to lose the fullback and half is a pretty big blow to us.’’
Knights NSW Cup prop Daine Laurie is a chance to play. Despite the injuries confidence is blossoming at the Toronto-based club.
Not since 2006, when they finished second after the regular season, have Macquarie beaten traditional competition heavyweights Wests and Wyong away from home in the same year.
The Scorpions achieved that feat in emphatic style over the past fortnight by beating Wyong 34-16 at Morry Breen Oval and then physically dominating the Rosellas on Sunday.
Those wins followed their sole loss, a 24-14 defeat to Lakes United, in round five.
Dent took over midway through last season from the failed captain-coach Trent Dally, and Scorpions secretary Steve Woodbridge said the premiership-winning mentor was the key to their success.
‘‘The players we’ve signed, apart from Mick Moran, Adam Swadling and Cantor, there’s no big-name players but they’re playing as a team,’’ Woodbridge said.
‘‘We can’t be happier with their attitude and the way they’re performing on the field.’’
Macquarie previously made the top five in 2008, but Dent is unprepared to talk about semi-final football.
‘‘If we’re still in the hunt with five to play we’ll probably change, but at the moment we’re setting short-term goals at the moment, and to be honest, injuries now could dictate a lot,’’ Dent said.
The Bulldogs have their own injury concerns with centre Mat Cooper (hamstring) out for several weeks and prop Adam Peek (concussion) in serious doubt.
After two successive losses, against Wests and Cessnock, Kurri are desperate to stop the rot.
‘‘Last week we were thereabouts so I don’t think we’re falling down in any area,’’ Bulldogs captain-coach George Ndaira said.
‘‘The bye is coming at a good time for us as it was a big, physical first seven rounds for us.
‘‘We’re travelling where I think we should be, we’re improving every week and it’s only early on in the year.’’