The Newcastle Knights' hopes of making the top eight at the end of the 2023 NRL season have taken a major blow with an ACL injury sustained by star hooker Jayden Brailey.

The injury continues Brailey's wretched run with injuries, where he has had just one full season since joining the Knights ahead of the 2020 campaign.

In that time, he has now suffered two ACL injuries and an Achilles injury, leaving him with less than 40 games across his four seasons.

While Brailey, who injured his Achilles in the pre-season ahead of the 2021 season, had suitable back-up last time around in Chris Randall, that is no longer the case in 2023.

Randall has since shifted to the Gold Coast Titans, where he is currently starting with Sam Verrills out injured. In return, the Knights received winger Greg Marzhew from the Titans, and didn't make any play to increase their own dummy half depth.

That has left coach Adam O'Brien to rely on the duo of Phoenix Crossland and Kurt Mann to fill the role in Round 7 against the Penrith Panthers, and likely until they are able to make another signings with one of their remaining squad spots for the 2023 campaign.

While Crossland and Mann will likely do a serviceable job, neither are going to be the number nine Newcastle need if they want to hang onto their better than expected start to the new season and fight to play in the finals come September.

Granted, no option that might be immediately available will help either, but a genuine number nine with NRL experience will help their cause, and allow Mann and Crossland to continue playing in a utility role that they are far better suited to.

Here are the top five options for the Knights to be chasing in immediately replacing Brailey, noting that these players could either be on loan, or for a short-term contract.


5. Ben Marschke (Sydney Roosters)

Marschke has fallen right out of favour at the Sydney Roosters, sitting in the North Sydney Bears squad where he has made a strong start to the NSW Cup season.

At one point viewed alongside Freddy Lussick as a long-term back-up to Sam Verrills, the club have completely altered the structure of their number nine jersey.

Brandon Smith's arrival during the off-season left little doubt as to the number one option, while Jake Turpin arrived to play second fiddle.

That means Marschke is well down the pecking order, but does have 13 games of NRL experience for the tri-colours.

The Bundaberg-born 25-year-old never quite adapted to the NRL, but has made a solid start to the year at reserve grade level, getting through plenty of work defensively and running the ball well.

He wouldn't be Jayden Brailey, but he would certainly go some of the way towards helping fill the void left by his injury.