NEWCASTLE skipper Kurt Gidley could miss the remainder of the season if he requires a reconstruction of the shoulder he dislocated in yesterday's 18-6 win against Cronulla at Toyota Stadium.
The Knights five-eighth and skipper faces an extended period on the sidelines, throwing Newcastle's premiership campaign on its head just two rounds into the season.
Gidley suffered an identical injury against the Storm at AAMI Park in round eight last year, and as a result was ruled out of the Anzac Test and missed the next month of football. He didn't have surgery in the off-season, and if he requires a reconstruction, he might have played his last game for the year.
The 29-year-old went up the tunnel yesterday just five minutes into the contest. Although the Knights medical staff tried to get their play-maker back on the paddock, coach Wayne Bennett said he was in no state to return. ''We just weren't sure how bad it was,'' Bennett said. ''He's subluxed it before and it wasn't so bad and he's been able to go back out. But it was just too bad.''
Newcastle have a poor record without Gidley, winning just four of their past 15 games when he's been missing. To add to their concerns, back-up halves Tyrone Roberts and Ryan Stig have injury worries, too. But Bennett refused to go into panic mode, confident his team could overcome losing their go-to man.
''Roberts is injured and Stig is just coming back this week, I think,'' Bennett said. ''No team is immune from injuries; we're not any different. We'll just get on with the season and do the best we can.''
Gidley's injury forced Bennett to chuck substitute Matt Hilder into the game a lot earlier then he had hoped. While Hilder isn't a noted five-eighth, Danny Buderus - who is likely to take over the captaincy if Gidley is sidelined - said he filled the void exceptionally.
''You lose a lot of your structure when you lose one of your halves and one of your dominant voices,'' Buderus said. ''Kurt provides a lot of energy, but Matty just jumped in there and made a good fist of it.''
Buderus believes the 12-point victory will prove to be a key moment in the team's season if their leader is to be ruled out for an extended period. The commitment and composure they showed to overcome the Sharks is what they need to emulate in coming weeks if they are to be a threat without their regular No.6.
''I think that game will make us better equipped,'' he said. ''You can draw on something like that. It gives you confidence when any of your top-line players drop out, to come away with the win away from home. If it happens again or we lose 'Mullo' [Jarrod Mullen] we can adapt and form into the team we were today and try and grind it out.''
Lock Neville Costigan also made an early exit with a calf strain - in the 20th minute - and is in doubt for Friday's clash with Brisbane. He too will have scans today to determine whether he'll be fit to take on his former club at Hunter Stadium.
The Knights played most of the game with just two players on the bench, adding to the enormity of the victory. ''I was extremely proud of their effort,'' Bennett said. ''It was wonderful. They completely gutsed it out, they had nothing else going for them, to lose Kurt so early and Neville on a hot day like today and when they were down to 15 players.
''We just kept hanging in, and defensively we had our moments, but overall our defence saved the day for us. It was outstanding, particularly our goal-line defence.''
NEWCASTLE 18 (C Houston J Sau A Uate tries W Naiqama 3 goals) bt CRONULLA 6 (B Pomeroy try T Carney goal) at Toyota Stadium. Referee: Tony Archer, Phil Haines. Crowd: 15,564.