YORK City Knights boss Gary Thornton admits Josh Nathaniel may have played his one and only game for the club this season.
The former Hunslet threequarter, who joined York late in pre-season and then missed the start of the Championship One campaign with an ankle injury, has now needed to undergo a bone graft on a damaged wrist, which will sideline him for four to six weeks.
Thornton is hopeful the 23-year-old can provide a "massive boost" by proving his fitness and form by the end of the regular season run-in and in time for the promotion play-offs, but he concedes it will be difficult for the player to play any considerable part.
"We're not going to rule it out but it's hard to see him returning this year," said the head coach of Nathaniel, whose sole first-team appearance came in the shock home loss to Oxford.
"He's out for four to six weeks, perhaps longer. That would take us up to the end of July and we'll only have a few league games left.
"He was catching up on his fitness before then and he'll have to catch up again, so I think we'll be lucky if we see him before the end of the season.
"It will be difficult for him. He will have to get back and prove his fitness and, with the likes of Greg Minikin, James Morland, James Ford and James Saltonstall in the equation (for centre berths), it will be tough for him. He will have to work hard on his fitness.
"If we get him back fit, strong and raring to go for the play-offs, it will be a massive boost, but he has a fair bit of work to do to get back into contention."