Wouldn't you know it ... just as the Maitland Pickers' season starts to really take off, the club have been rocked by a double injury blow.
Hard-hitting second rower Matt Allwood was this week ruled out for the season after scans revealed a pectoral muscle tear to his left shoulder that will likely require surgery.
And on top of that, powerful centre Tom Hughes could be out for up to eight weeks, also with a shoulder injury - a displaced AC joint.
The double setback is heightened by the fact both players are highly versatile and can play in both the back row and also the centres.
"We moved Tom from the centres to the forwards to cover for Matt, in fact," coach Matt Lantry said.
Neither player played in last week's derby win over Kurri, but the severity of their injuries has surprised the Pickers.
Fortunately fellow second rower Pat Mata'utia, after an extended spell on sidelines, has come through his return to action in great style.
He played about 70 minutes in his return game, the top of the table win over Central, and backed it up with another solid 65 minutes against Kurri.
"I've been surprised at the minutes he has managed to play, but I've been happy to let him go as he has played really well. He caused Kurri plenty of problems on the edge last weekend and scored one try."
This Saturday the Pickers take on mid-table Wyong at Maitland. Wyong have only won one of their last five and Maitland will start strong favourites.
Utility back Jarom Haines, who was a withdrawal last week, is expected to play.
"Jarom had a workplace injury and thought he might have broken his hand," Lantry said. "But x-rays have shown it's not broken so we're hopeful he'll be right for this weekend."
With Hughes out, his return to the centres would be a bonus.
"The good thing is that last week we could give extended minutes to guys like Peter Wilson, Brenton Horwood and Ben Ireland," Lantry said.
"It meant we could limit the minutes of Sam Anderson, James Taylor and Jayden Butterfield who have been so good for us all season.
"It was good to be able to ease their workload."
With late changes young local junior Tom Cant again grabbed his chance with a strong game. He will get his chance to shine again against Wyong.
- The Pickers have their annual fund-raising golf day on Friday June 25. The club is still looking for sponsors for individual holes and encourages those who might be interested, or potential players, to contact Gary Fairhurst on 0414 486107. Cost is $70 a player or $260 for a team of four which includes 18 holes, lunch and dinner.
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