Newcastle Knights may be forced to step up their bid to bring in squad reinforcements before June 30 after co-captain Jamie Buhrer became the embattled club’s latest injury casualty on Saturday night.
Rocked by the news on Friday that prop Daniel Saifiti will miss the next six weeks with ligament damage in his foot, the Knights injury crisis deepened just 24 hours later with Buhrer suffering a season-ending knee injury during the side’s 18-16 loss to the Sydney Roosters.
The club now has six regular top grade players – Mitchell Pearce, Tautau Moga, Nathan Ross, Daniel and Jacob Saifiti and Buhrer –sidelined through injury with coach Nathan Brown rapidly running out of viable options as replacements.
Asked after the loss to the Roosters if injuries were killing the Knights’ season, coach Nathan Brown said:
“I think we can all acknowledge it is not helping us, that’s for sure,” he said.
“That’s the nature of our game unfortunately. Sometimes you have good runs and sometimes you have bad runs.
“If Mitchell didn’t get hurt, we would have won today’s game I believe and we would have won two or three other games but that’s what experience does and that’s why everyone wants these types of players.
“We are certainly getting a little bit lighter now. There is a fair number of longer term ones which are hurting us.
“We came into the year a touch light in our squad because the right players weren’t there to get.”
The problem for Brown and football recruitment boss Darren Mooney is the “right players” are still not available and the club may be forced to gamble on signing some lesser lights to bolster squad numbers.
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Asked about the prospects of bringing in new players, Brown said:
“We are in the market for apparently everyone. Anyone off contract, we get linked to,” he joked.
“We are certainly looking and looking hard but we need to find the right players to suit and we need a bit more longer term at the moment rather than shorter term.
“Obviously, we’d like a bit more depth if we want to win a few more games [this season] but with this new roster, you are only allowed to sign a certain amount of players so it’s not as easy as every one thinks.
“It’s not a fantasy league where you can just change your team every week. If it was, it would be nice.”
Buhrer, who is in the middle of negotiations to extend his contract with the club, had only been on the field for a few minutes when he felt his ACL snap, the third time in his career he has suffered such an injury.
He now faces a six month rehabilitation and was too upset to talk about his injury after the game.
Brown said Buhrer will fight his way back.
“He’s disappointed, as is the case when anyone gets those long term, season-ending injuries,” he said.
“Obviously, he is starting to get onto the latter part of his career so he’s not a young bloke anymore either. But he’ll be right. I’m sure he’ll get himself back on the field next year.”
Buhrer wasn’t the only player in the wars against the Roosters.
Winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall needed five stitches at halftime for a deep cut on his chin and finished the game against his former club with a busted nose.