KNIGHTS forward Mitch Barnett admits the season-ending injury incurred by crowd-pleasing fullback Nathan Ross is a body blow for Newcastle.
Ross sustained a broken bone in his back during Saturday’s 26-10 win against the Warriors after copping an accidental knee from centre Blake Ayshford.
He is facing a recovery period of six to eight weeks and will miss Newcastle’s remaining four games, starting with Parramatta at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
“He’s a massive loss,’’ Barnett said on Monday.
“He brings all the boys together … and on the field, he’s just such a dynamic player.
“He brings the ball back strong, and he’s sorted our defensive line out really well. We’re going to miss him. It’s unfortunate, but I’m sure whoever steps into his role will do his job.”
Barnett predicted the City Origin rep would be back “bigger and better” next season. “He’s a strong character and he’ll get in and do his rehab,’’ he said.
Knights coach Nathan Brown is expected to choose between Peter Mata’utia and Dane Gagai to replace Ross.
Parramatta, meanwhile, have fullback worries of their own after elusive Bevan French was unable to train on Monday because of a hamstring injury.
French came off at half-time in the Eels' win over Canterbury last week. Former Brisbane and Gold Coast utility Josh Hoffman and ex-Knights lower grader Will Smith are the likely options to wear the No.1 on Friday.
"I heard he got a grade-one strain, but it's his hamstring. It definitely could be worse, but it's not too bad," Parramatta skipper Tim Mannah said on Monday.
The Eels are already without their first-choice fullback, Clint Gutherson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago.