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.

3. Taniela Otukolo (The Dolphins)

Otukolo left the Warriors in surprising circumstances at the end of the 2022 campaign, giving up his NRL contract for an opportunity elsewhere.

Zero Tackle later learned that opportunity was a QLD Cup deal at the Dolphins, leaving him on the outer of an NRL squad, although possibly in the eyesight of Wayne Bennett.

Still just 20 years of age, Otukolo is yet to line up for the Dolphins or affiliate club the Central Queensland Capras in the QLD Cup this year, but has NRL experience under his belt and could line up as soon as next weekend when the QRL's under-21s colts competition gets underway.

Once viewed as the future of the number nine jersey at the Warriors, Otukolo quickly found himself sliding down the pecking order at the back end of last year following the arrival of Freddy Lussick from the Sydney Roosters.

Otukolo's desire to relocate to Australia will see him still chasing NRL opportunities, and he showed enough in his nine games to suggest he has what it takes to hang at NRL level.