Newcastle's season has taken a significant hit and NSW are in search of a new State of Origin halfback after Mitchell Pearce was ruled out for four months with a pectoral injury.
Scans confirmed on Sunday that Pearce would need surgery on a ruptured pectoral muscle after he left the field in agony in Tamworth on Saturday night following an attempt to make a tackle.
The surgery would leave him sidelined for around 16 weeks, ruling him out of the entire Origin series and making him unavailable for the Knights until approximately round 23.
The injury will place a large stress on the Knights who are already waiting on five-eighth Connor Watson to return from a shoulder injury, with youngsters Jack Cogger and Brock Lamb as coach Nathan Brown's other options.
But their pain will be equalled by that of Blues coach Brad Fittler, who has now lost his incumbent while potential replacement Nathan Cleary is still sidelined with a knee injury for another month.
The probable unavailability of both Pearce and Cleary for the June 6 series-opener significantly whittles down the list of possible options to partner likely five-eighth James Maloney.
Luke Keary has been in strong form for the Sydney Roosters, while Wests Tigers No.7 Luke Brooks has also recently been tossed up as a possibility to make his Origin debut.
Other candidates include South Sydney playmaker Adam Reynolds, Cronulla link-man Matt Moylan and Brisbane five-eighth Jack Bird, each of whom have previously pulled on the Blues jumper.
"It's not great," Knights coach Brown said of Pearce after their 22-20 win over Wests Tigers.
"He is disappointed. Mitch loves playing. Game day is his favourite day of the week.
"They are the types of players you want in your club. Whatever the result is he will still contribute while he is not playing."