South Coast Wolves' campaign has been dealt a massive blow, with star midfielder Steve Hayes being ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
After only just returning from a short stint plying his trade in Hong Kong, Hayes tore his ACL in Sunday's pre-season cup match against Marconi Stallions at Macedonia Park.
The talented midfielder fell awkwardly in the closing stages of the first half and had the injury diagnosed on Monday. He will see a surgeon today, before undergoing a rehabilitation program of more than nine months.
"I am just keen to start the rehab stuff, have the surgery and just get straight into the recovery," Hayes said.
"It is happening pretty quick, which is good, because I am not the type who likes to dwell on things. I hate sitting still.
"Obviously I was looking forward to playing for the Wolves and at WIN [Stadium] ... But it is just about accepting it now."
Before the mishap, Hayes was considered a lock-in to start the new campaign in the Wolves engine room with new signing Matt Bailey.
His loss will leave a massive hole in the club's midfield, which has had a strong start to the new season.
The Wolves beat defending National Premier League champions Sydney United 3-2 in their opening preseason cup match. They have since gone down 2-1 to title contenders Blacktown Spartans and drawn 1-1 with Marconi.
But the loss of Hayes will make life difficult and coach Richard Lloyd is already looking for a solution.
"It opens up a window for one of the other guys to come in and fill some pretty big shoes, but that is the challenge we are faced with," Lloyd said.
"He is a huge loss. His work rate is just phenomenal - the amount of ground that he covers and the quality possession that he gains ... he has that experience in the middle of the park.
"One of the other guys will have to step up and take that role."
Sam Matthews and Dusan Kolonja are both considered viable options to step in for Hayes, who is expected to continue playing a role for the Wolves off the field in the community.
"That is a positive of the situation. I can work just as hard off the field," Hayes said.
"I am still going to be in the gym, but as far as doing any other type of event for the club, I will be here, there and everywhere for the Wolves."
South Coast preseason will continue tonight, as the club take on an Illawarra Premier League All-Stars side at John Crehan Park.