A day after celebrating Kalyn Ponga as their biggest signing in over a decade, luckless Newcastle were dealt a blow after scans confirmed five-eighth Jarrod Mullen had torn his problematic hamstring.
Mullen has another tear to his right hamstring, the same muscle which was ripped off the bone and ruled him out for almost three months earlier this year.
At this stage Mullen hopes to be available to face the Warriors in round one on March 5, however there are concerns over whether the hamstring could tear again.
“If it keeps going it will be pretty hard to get back,” Mullen told Fairfax Media.
“I just have to be patient with it, and hopefully it gets stronger before the start of the season.”
Adding to the concerns over Mullen’s future is the fact he injured the hamstring in a simple ballwork drill last week.
The 29-year-old is contracted to the Knights until the end of 2018 and is one of their highest paid players.
It could also be a significant hit to the Knights, who were forced to use three inexperienced replacements throughout 2016 as Mullen missed 10 games.
Brock Lamb, Jaelen Feeney and Jack Cogger all partnered former NSW playmaker Trent Hodkinson in the halves in 2016, as the club failed to win another game after Mullen’s setback in April.
Ponga could also be used as an alternative in the No.6 jersey if North Queensland were to release him from the final year of his contract, with Newcastle chief executive Matt Gidley confirming on Tuesday the club had room for him in their 2017 salary cap.
Gidley also stressed though that any early release from the Cowboys seems unlikely.
Meanwhile former NRL halves Todd Carney and Chris Sandow remain on the market for an Australian club to purchase, after having returned home from the English Super League.
However the Knights have previously opted against the likes of Carney, after reports linked him to the club in late 2015.