TULLIBIGEAL Lakes United has suffered a shattering blow on the eve of its Group 20 major semi-final with news talented playmaker Dylan Hatley could miss up to 12 months of football.
Hatley was carried from the field last weekend in his side's four-point win over the Bidgee Hurricanes with what was suspected to be a serious knee injury.
Scans this week revealed significant cartilage and ligament damage, enough to rule him out of the Sharks' tilt at the title this year and most of season 2013.
TLU coach Anthony Chambeyron said the team will get on with the business at hand on Sunday at Ron Crowe Oval against West Wyalong, but admitted the Sharks will miss Hatley's impact.
"He got probably the worst possible news. I was speaking to his mum and it looks like he could be out for up to 12 months," Chambeyron said.
"The bone in his knee has separated, almost like a dislocation, and after having MRIs on it this week he got the bad news."
Having already played for Country under 18s this year, Hatley was rumoured to be close to signing with the St George-Illawarra Dragons.
Though byes and weaker opponents, West Wyalong have not had a solid hit-out since round 16 when they beat Yenda at Wade Park.
West Wyalong president Greg Blackstock said the side is not thinking about the number of weeks in between tough games, rather is using their notable absence to fuel their desire to beat their rivals.
“Everything is looking really good this week with the guys, it’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve had a game, but they have enthusiasm,” Blackstock said.
“But Willy (Jones) and Mick (Loudon) have got the guys prepared well and they’ll be on-song, but they are just lacking a little bit of that game time, of course that will be their biggest problem.”
Blackstock conceded a slow start might occur on Sunday, but said the older heads will keep the side pointing in the right direction if the Sharks are on top early.
“Most of the guys who helped us win it last year are back and we’ve probably added to it with the likes of Rohan Loudon and Jarrod Carruthers,” he said.
“We’re lacking Mark Leadbitter, who I’d love to have out there, but his back injury is keeping him out and I’m not really sure if he knows if it could come back this year.”
In a boost for TLU, Travis Lightfoot is rated an 80 per cent chance of returning from a quad strain picked up in last week’s warm-up, with Chambeyron opting not to risk the flying winger.
The TLU coach said the battle between his star halfback, Jaden Kelly, and West Wyalong’s Mick Loudon could decide the outcome of the game.
“When they played us at Lake we didn’t underestimate their halves, but I think their kicking game was sensational and we didn’t mount enough pressure on them,” Chambeyron said.
“They won’t throw the same attack at us, but we’re mindful of trying to shut them down so they can’t set up the likes of Willy Jones outside them.”