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.

2. Jayden Berrell (Cronulla Sharks)

Jayden Berrell was one of the best performers in the QLD Cup, but always struggled to land an NRL job until last year when the Cronulla Sharks took a gamble on him.

The now 27-year-old is still yet to make his NRL debut, but has been a key cog in the Newtown Jets' success over the last year and a bit, and has already added six try assists in five appearances this season at reserve grade level.

With Blayke Brailey playing 80 minutes per week, and Cameron McInnes able to slot in at hooker during a pinch, there is realistically no chance of Berrell being included in the NRL side anytime soon.

That said, the Knights should be ringing the phone off the hook to the Shire and asking for Berrell to join them immediately on a loan for the remainder of the season.

Berrell may not yet have NRL experience, but the former junior representative player is the best of the bunch without it.