St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan joins a long list of NRL stars set to miss the opening four rounds after a preseason marred by high-profile injuries.
Dugan suffered a lateral ligament injury and will miss at least the first month of the season.
He is set to return for the Dragons in their round-five clash against South Sydney.
It was against the Rabbitohs when Dugan injured his knee: during the Dragons’ 38-20 loss in the annual Charity Shield at WIN Stadium on Saturday.
‘‘Josh has had scans and a surgical review and has suffered a lateral ligament injury following a collision on Saturday,’’ said Dragons high performance director Andrew Gray.
The injury will leave Adam Quinlan and Gerard Beale as potential replacements, after Quinlan impressed at fullback following Dugan’s departure on Saturday.
The woe comes as a double blow to St George Illawarra coach Steve Price, who needs a strong start to the year to ensure he has a chance of extending his contract beyond this season.
‘‘It is always disappointing when you see high-profile footballers go down, but that is the game we play and it’s just the way it is,’’ Price said after the match.
Dugan joins the likes of Jarrod Mullen, Luke Lewis, Lee Mossop, Dene Halatau and Sika Manu, who will all miss the start of the year.
Halves Jamie Soward, Todd Carney and Cooper Cronk are fighting to be fit for the season proper, while Carney’s Cronulla teammate Jeff Robson will miss at least six weeks with multiple facial injuries.
The Knights received some good news with Mullen set to miss up to four months with a hamstring tear. Initially, it was feared that Mullen would spend the season sidelined after he tore his hamstring at the Auckland Nines.
Newcastle performance director Jeremy Hickmans said it was expected that Mullen needed surgery.
‘‘This is a much better outcome than what we anticipated following the initial scan results last week,’’ Hickmans said.
‘‘The surgeon was able to look at the scan and confirmed it was a partial tear. That means no surgery but a conservative rehabilitation program.’’
Meanwhile, Manly could be without wingers Jorge Taufua and David Williams for their round-one game against Melbourne, who will be minus Ryan Hinchcliffe.
Williams will miss the game with a knee injury, but could be fit for round two despite initial fears he had suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear at the Auckland Nines. The Sea Eagles were sweating on positive news for Taufua, who dislocated his shoulder in Manly’s 28-24 trial win over Parramatta on Saturday.
Canberra will be down a prop after David Shillington was ruled out for at least two weeks with rib cartilage damage.
‘‘From what I’m hearing it’s a two-to-four week injury,’’ Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said.