GOSFORD, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 19: Jayden Brailey of the Knights is tackled by Tohu Harris of the Warriors during the round two NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Newcastle Knights at Central Coast Stadium on March 19, 2021, in Gosford, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

The devastating news that Jayden Brailey will miss at least the first half of the 2022 NRL season with a torn Achilles has left the Newcastle Knights with an intriguing question to answer.

It'll be a case of either relying on their own back-up options, or hitting the open market in search of a first-grade quality replacement for Brailey.

The former Shark, who missed most of his first season with the Knights in 2020 after an ACL injury, proved his worth time and time again during the 2021 campaign.

However, the pre-season incident, believed to have been a non-contact injury at training, has once again left the Knights without their first-choice hooker as he prepares to undergo surgery this week.

He is tipped to miss anywhere between five and eight months, putting his return somewhere between Round 10 and Round 22.

The club signed Andrew McCullough from the Brisbane Broncos to cover Brailey's loss in 2020, but this time around, they are more confident in their depth to cope with the injury.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Andrew McCullough of the Broncos passes the ball during the round two NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium on March 22, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Chris Randall has recently been upgraded to a top 30 spot within the Knights' squad and will likely be the first-choice replacement, while Kurt Mann and Phoenix Crossland could also provide coverage in the number nine.

Knights' head of recruitment Clint Zammit told The Newcastle Herald that the club aren't panicking.

"We're not panicking," Zammit told the publication.

"We're just going to be patient. We don't need to make any rash decisions.

"There's no point going out and signing somone who is no better than what we've already got.

"Hopefully Jayden will only be out for half a season, and we've got Chris Randall there, who's done a good job for us in the past.

"And guys like Phoenix Crossland and Kurt Mann can provide some cover."

Randall has impressed during his limited first-grade exposure, playing 12 games across the past two seasons while on a development contract.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 31: Chris Randall of the Knights is tackled by Isaah Yeo of the Panthers during the round three NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Newcastle Knights at Campbelltown Stadium on May 31, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

His defence has been rock-solid, and more exposure in the top grade will only continue to improve his game.

Should he go down injured or miss any games though, it will put the Knights in a tough spot, with only utility Kurt Mann and half Phoenix Crossland likely to be able to fill the role.

Crossland, however, has been touted as the bench utility for 2022, moving into the role vacated by Connor Watson, who has joined the Sydney Roosters.

It's understood the Knights view Crossland as big and strong enough to make the transition into a ball-playing lock, meaning he is also likely doing plenty of training in the number nine.

The Knights will open their season against the Sydney Roosters.