GARY THORNTON has admitted he fears Jason Golden's future looks uncertain - but is praying the popular second-row's recurring shoulder injury can be overcome.
Golden, who missed most of last year after needing a full reconstruction of his right shoulder, has suffered two temporary dislocations of the same joint in his last three outings, the latest just ten minutes into Sunday's heartbreaking Challenge Cup loss at Swinton.
The 28-year-old former Super League player, said to be "down in the dumps", is definitely ruled out of Sunday's Championship One visit of Oxford Cavaliers and the Good Friday trip to Gateshead and, while Thornton mantains hope that the injury won't persist, he concedes he is "majorly concerned" that he might have to call it quits - especially as doctors say there is little more they can do to fix the joint.
"We're waiting for the full assessment from the physios," he said. "It seems the shoulder again came out of the joint but went straight back in.
"It's a big worry - for Jason more than anything. He just wants to play. He's enjoying his rugby so much this season. After the Swinton game he was very down in the dumps and wasn't much better on Tuesday night. I feel for him.
"We have to put it in the hands of the medical staff and physios to do their bit. Maybe it just needs strengthening up around the shoulder.
"I'm more concerned for Jason than anything else. He's a great lad, a gift to the coaches, with his fantastic attitude and everything he does towards the club. He's very down at the moment, but I'm hoping he can come through. We'll have to take it week by week for now.
"The surgeon who did the reconstruction says there's nothing more he can do with the joint. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work.
"But they can hopefully strengthen around the joint to stop this happening. I've also known players who have carried on playing with something similar. The joint pops out and goes straight back in - it can be very painful but they've carried on, so it is possible. Whether he can do that at this level of rugby remains to be seen. He's a tough character, though.
"Hopefully it can get sorted out and if we can get him right it will be a massive boost."
The Knights have also been rocked by a knee injury to impact prop Iain Morrison.
The crowd favourite limped out of Sunday's tie and is a big doubt for this weekend.
Thornton has a natural replacement in Nathan Freer, who was omitted at Swinton, and there are rumours Super League player Dan Fleming will be made available on dual-registration by partner club Castleford.
Meanwhile, trialist Lewis Farr will make his debut for the Knights tonight in a hastily-arranged reserves fixture.
Mick Ramsden's young charges face the RAF at Huntington Stadium (8pm), and Farr - who trained with the club earlier this year before embarking on the same aborted move to Australia as loose-forward Ryan Backhouse - is likely to get a run off the bench.
The 19-year-old forward has previously spent time with Castleford and Hull KR's academies.
Joe Pickets is also involved again tonight ahead of his planned return to the club at the end of the rugby union season, as is New Earswick ARLC youngster Reece Blake.
Jack Pickles will also play but only if his groin injury allows. The forward is due to go for a scan tomorrow to get to the bottom of the problem that has sidelined him so far this term.
Teenager James Morland drops down from the first team, where he has been playing at centre, and is set to return to the stand-off slot he occupied in the under-20s reserves last year.
Not included in the provisional 18 tonight are Luke Hardcastle and Josh Nathaniel, suggesting they are in line for first-team berths in Sunday's match against Oxford. Dual-reg full-back Ben Reynolds will also be available at the weekend.
Knights reserves: from Talbot, Tomlinson, Swift, Rogers, A Dent, Morland, Green, Stubbs, Carter, Pickets, Crane, Craig, Backhouse, Batty, Parker, Blake, Pickles, Farr.