IF Knights fullback Dylan Phythian looked distressed as he was helped from the field at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday, it was not just because of the pain in his left knee.
He was also suffering an unwelcome sense of deja vu.
Two years ago, playing in the NSW Cup, the Belmont-born utility back tore the anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee, an injury that left him facing six months of rehabilitation and recovery.
The healing process was delayed when he developed a blood clot.
Now it appears he has sustained basically the same injury to the same knee, after catching a bomb in Sunday’s 26-22 loss to the Warriors and immediately collapsing.
Newcastle’s medical staff believe he has again ruptured his ACL, although they are waiting for the results of scans to confirm the extent of the damage.
It is a cruel blow for the 21-year-old, who appeared in two NRL games last year and trained so well in the pre-season he secured first shot at Newcastle’s fullback vacancy. If his worst fears are realised, he will be unlikely to play again this season.
And by the time he has recovered, star signing Kayln Ponga will have arrived in Newcastle, where the teenage dynamo is almost guaranteed the No.1 jersey.
Knights forward Mitch Barnett said Phythian was “really positive’’, considering a situation that would have many others wallowing in self-pity.
“He’s obviously shattered,’’ Barnett said. “It’s a big blow. We’re all here for him, though.
“He’s still walking around with a bit of a smile on his face.
“He’s up in Sydney now seeing a specialist and getting scans.’’
Phythian’s expected absence from Saturday’s clash with Gold Coast at McDonald Jones Stadium leaves Knights coach Nathan Brown pondering his fifth fullback since the start of last season.
Jaelen Feeney, Dane Gagai and Jake Mamo rotated as custodian in 2016.
Peter Mata’utia switched from centres to replace Phythian against the Warriors, and would appear the likely long-term candidate.
That would open a spot at left-side centre, which could possibly be filled by Brendan Elliot or Cory Denniss.
Denniss scored two tries against the Warriors in NSW Cup, while Elliot was standby player for first grade.
Brown’s other option would be to shuffle Sione Mata’utia from back row to centre, as he did on Sunday.
English import Joe Wardle did not play in round one, as he is still building fitness after knee surgery last year. He is expected to be available between round three and round five.