Penrith has been dealt a massive blow with five-eighth Lachlan Coote ruled out for the rest of the season.
Coote tore his pectoral muscle early in last Sunday’s clash with the Wests Tigers and was forced from the field.
On Monday, Coote’s worst fears were confirmed when scans revealed he would require immediate surgery for the injury, putting him out of action of the rest of the 2013 season.
It was originally hoped Coote, who only made the permanent switch from fullback to five-eighth this season, would only miss between six and eight weeks.
Panthers boss Phil Gould broke the news that Coote’s season was over on Twitter, saying it was “terrible luck” for the Panthers.
Coote was visibly upset in the dressing room after suffering the injury and after having seasons disrupted through long-term injuries in the past, would be devastated by this latest blow.
The loss of Coote on Sunday proved a major disruption to the Panthers, who lost their way as the Tigers took control of the game at Campbelltown Stadium and won 28-18.
“It definitely affected our attack,” coach Ivan Cleary said after the game on Sunday.
“But we never came here wanting to allow the Tigers to score that many points, so whilst it may have affected our attack, we’ll look back and there were some tries we conceded where we just weren’t up to scratch.”
The Windsor Wolves junior, who turns 23 next month, will be replaced at five-eighth by Blake Austin, a utility player who represented the Australian Schoolboys in 2009.
The Weekender understands Austin will be named in the number six jumper when Ivan Cleary announces his team for this weekend’s game against Souths at 4pm.
Austin made his first grade debut late in the 2011 season before playing 12 matches for the Panthers last season.
But he was set for a season in the NSW Cup with Coote moving to five-eighth and a new-look first grade bench that simply didn’t allow for his versatility given it now carries hooker James Segeyaro.
Austin’s big chance at the top grade comes after he trialled well in the halves in a trial at Bathurst against the Tigers last month.
After the game, Austin joked about how it was unlikely he’d ever give halfback Luke Walsh a run for his money in the number seven jumper. Now, Austin finds himself playing alongside Walsh to complete a makeshift halves combination that faces one of the game’s scariest sides at Penrith Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Penrith’s injury woes don’t end with Coote, with forward Jeremy Latimore, who made a positive debut against the Raiders in round one, out for at least half of the season with an ankle injury.
And flyer James Roberts, who many believe is the perfect replacement for Michael Jennings, is at least a month away after he was injured in a trial match last month.