CHARLESTOWN City will put faith in repeat offender Kyle Hodges to lead their defence in the finals after the loss of Cameron Hughes to a horror knee injury which is expected to sideline him until 2014.
Hughes went down in the first half after a challenge from a Newcastle Jets youth player in the 3-2 win on Sunday at Lisle Carr Oval and had scans yesterday on his injured knee.
The results were devastating for the popular club man, who snapped his anterior cruciate ligament, ruptured his lateral and medial ligaments, tore his meniscus and suffered bone bruising.
He has been told he may not play again until the start of the 2014 season.
‘‘He’s shattered,’’ Blues coach Mark Wilson said from training last night.
‘‘It doesn’t get much worse than this in terms of knee injuries and we’re all feeling for him.’’
The damage is to the same knee that Hughes had a full reconstruction on in 2010.
He came back the following year to be the Blues’ player of the year in their first-division premiership.
Wilson said the latest injury was another major blow for Charlestown, who could finish as high as second or as low as fourth in their maiden Northern NSW State League campaign.
It follows the loss of attacking midfielder Mitchell Harper for the rest of the season to ankle ligament damage.
‘‘Hughesy’s been one of our standout performers all year,’’ Wilson said.
‘‘Defensively he’s been strong for us all year and he’s scored five goals coming up on set pieces as well.’’
The Blues have a ready-made replacement for Hughes in Hodges, who returns from a three-match ban after the final-round game against Weston on Sunday.
Hodges copped two yellow cards, for a deliberate handball and dissent, five minutes into a midweek 1-all draw with South Cardiff.
It was his first start since receiving two yellows inside 20 minutes in a 3-2 loss to Edgeworth.
Hodges stormed out of Lisle Carr after the send-off against South Cardiff and Wilson was critical of the defender’s actions after the game.
But Wilson is confident Hodges, who is back at training this week, will put the rough patch behind him.
‘‘Kyle came to the match on Sunday and he and I had a really good chat,’’ he said.
‘‘He realises he did the wrong thing, but I addressed the whole squad during the week because we’ve all been a bit guilty of ill discipline through the year.
‘‘He’s a quality player and a quality defender, and in the right frame of mind, you’d want him in any side.’’
On the positive side, Matt Tull and Aaron Pritchard have returned from injury to boost the Blues’ midfield.