NEWCASTLE have suffered their fourth body blow in the space ofa cursed week after the club confirmed on Monday that key recruit Rory Kostjasyn was facing surgery and at least 12 weeks on the sidelines.
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Kostjasyn suffered a fracture tothe Cricoid cartilage in his neck in a training accident two weeks ago, and the initial prognosis was that the former Melbourne and North Queensland hooker would be out of commission “for a minimum of six to eight weeks”.

That estimate has been upgraded indefinitely after the Knights announced on their website on Monday that the 29-year-old was still unable to talk and might be waiting more than a fortnight before specialists can operate.

SETBACK: Rory Kostjasyn

“At the moment they can’t touch it, simply because it’s just so swollen, so sore,’’ Newcastle’s physical-performance manager, Tony Ayoub, said in an interview on the club’s website.

“Then they’ll have to decide whether they can relocate that dislocated cartilage, or they put an implant in.

“Either way, Rory’s got to have some surgery and we’ll have some more clarity in the next two to four weeks, depending on when he has that surgery, of just how long he’ll be. But at the moment it’s certainly looking like 12 weeks, at least.”

Because the injury is so rare, Ayoub admitted that predicting a return date for Kostjasyn was guesswork.

“At the moment, he’s in limbo, we’re in limbo,’’ Ayoub said. “We’re just not sure how long it’s going to be.’’

The 126-game veteran attended Newcastle’s training session on Monday to provide his teammates with moral support.

“We’ve got him back for the first time, but unfortunately he can’t talk,’’ Ayoub said.

“His voice is still really low and he’s got to rest it, so we’re trying not to tax him.’’

Just a fortnight after Knights coach Nathan Brown was pondering which of three contenders would tag-team with Kostjasyn at dummy-half in round one, Newcastle have been reduced to their same two hookers as last season –Danny Levi and Tyler Randell.

Jarrod Mullen appears definitely out of contention after last week’s revelation that he had tested positive to a banned steroid.

That shattering setback was exacerbated by the news that heavyweight forward Pauli Pauli had suffered a dislocated hip in a car crash, and then enigmatic prop Korbin Sims was released to join Brisbane.

Wooden spooners in 2015 and 2016, Newcastle are $1.60 favourites with TAB Sportsbet to finish last this season. Despite the worryingoutlook, Newcastle’s membership numbers are reported to have increased by 27 per cent (8476 to 10,122) on the corresponding point of last season.