The Canberra Raiders' season has gone from bad to worse with news fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad requires surgery on his neck and is unlikely to play again this season.
The 25-year-old has been out since round five and it was initially hoped he would not need surgery after his condition had seemingly improved.
However, in the wake of their eighth loss of the season, going down to the Melbourne Storm by 24 points, Raiders officials confirmed Nicoll-Klokstad will see the surgeon this week.
It comes as a crushing blow for the boom fullback and the Raiders whose season took another body blow when they gave up 34 unanswered points to the Storm on Saturday night at GIO Stadium.
A despondent Ricky Stuart had little to say post-match, only quickly adding the missing players from Saturday night due to injury or suspension was not the reason they lost their seventh game of the season.
Match Highlights: Raiders v Storm
“Melbourne stayed in the game for a longer period than us,“ Stuart said.
“No, it’s definitely not that (missing players), I am not going to look at that an excuse.”
Regardless of putting faith in the 17 players chosen for the clash with the Storm, it is hard to ignore the talent watching from the stands.
Josh Papalii, Jack Wighton and Josh Hodgson are all suspensed while Joe Tapine (knee), Jordan Rapana (hamstring) and Jarrod Croker (knee) missed the heavyweight showdown due to injury.
As a result, the Storm earned nearly doubled the post-contact metres of the Raiders with 577 for the game and were averaging 13.2 more metres per set than Canberra.
The Raiders leaky defence was again an issue with the home side missing 35 tackles and recording 33 ineffective tackles as well as 12 errors, crucially some of which came after points in the first half.
Sam Williams' kicking game proved a highlight as the veteran helped pin the Storm down in their half where he could, but still the Green Machine spluttered through yet another second half, conceding 22 unanswered points after they trailed by just two at the break,
“He’s always generates a bit of enthusiasm when he gets picked in first grade, he gets them around the park well,” Stuart said of Williams.
It doesn't get any easier for the Raiders next week as they travel to the Central Coast to face a Roosters side who will be hell bent on avenging a shock loss to Brisbane earlier in the night.
On a positive note the Raiders will welcome back Wighton and Hodgson from suspension as they look to get their premiership campaign back on track.