Star North Wagga forward Daniel Jordan fears he's played his last game of the season, believing he'd be a long-shot to recover from an ankle injury in time to play again even if Saints make the grand final.
Jordan landed heavily in the second quarter of North Wagga's loss to the Northern Jets last week. He's in a moon-boot and says the prognosis isn't good with three weeks to finals.
"The ankle is pretty stuffed. I'm in a boot for the next 10 days," Jordan said.
"I've got to try to keep off it as much as I can to try to heal as best it can. Unfortunately I did a pretty good job on it. It has been my most troublesome ankle the last few years but this is the most major incident I've had with it.
"I came down and landed on someone's foot or something. My whole body weight went through my ankle and I went straight over on it.
"It's a syndesmosis injury and the physio said it's roughly six weeks - that would be pushing it, and if everything was to go to plan (with the recovery).
"That would be grand final week. But there's a lot of time between now and then. Even then, I don't know how confident I'd be in it anyway."
He was one of three high-profile ankle injuries on the weekend. However Marrar forward James Lawton and Jets midfielder Mitch Haddrill both hope to miss just one game with their sprains.
Jordan said his was devastating news as he'd been thoroughly enjoying his return to the Farrer League, playing alongside those who remained from his last year, 2018, and the new faces he hopes can help carry North Wagga forward.
"We could be okay. We're still very potent up forward with Nathan Dennis and if we can fix our ball use and get a bit of consistency going, we could be dangerous," Jordan said.
"Kirk (Hamblin) is starting to play really well and it's exciting to see the young fellas starting to find their spot in the team and in finals, they're who win you games - young guys who step up."
Jordan's kicked 40 goals in 13 games, including eight in a big win at Charles Sturt University mid-season, and was finding an increasing role swapping into the ruck in recent weeks which has been a weak spot for Saints.
North Wagga coach Cayden Winter will hold out hope that a return isn't out of the question but isn't sugar-coating the blow.
"It's a massive blow for us. He's third on the league goalkicking list and one of our main avenues to goal but another bloke's got to step up now and do his job," Winter said.
"I know he'll do everything he can do get back but it's one of those things, it will be a week-to-week proposition for him. Hopefully he recovers well."
Winter said the loss of Jordan didn't help last Saturday, as they fell to their second loss to the Jets this year. But it wasn't the only problem.
"I thought we played good footy for three quarters. DJ was giving us a bit of drive through the middle so him going down obviously didn't help but that wasn't the reason we lost," Winter said.
"In the fourth quarter we basically stopped and let them get on the outside of us, and we couldn't stop their run. But we played one bad quarter of footy and they played four quarters (of good footy)."
Winter is a big rap on the Jets ruckman Lachie Jones, who's been instrumental in their resurgence.
However, the ruck has been an achilles heel for Saints. Losing Jordan as back-up to either makeshift ruck Ky Hanlon or youngster Wil Harper, Winter said his side may look to change things right up in the coming weeks.
In the premiership year of 2019, they pulled a rabbit out of the hat, throwing midfielder Tom Bennetts into the rucking role during finals.
In a danger game against CSU (sixth) this weekend - and with The Rock-Yerong Creek (fourth) looming next week - Winter said his side needs to lift to consolidate their top three spot.
"I'd just like to see a good response this week," Winter said.
"We played three really good quarters of footy... we just need a really even spread of contributors across the ground and playing four quarters will be key to the next few weeks.
"I think it's only human to look at ladder positions and what's going to happen for the last few weeks but at this stage we can only worry about a week at a time and just try to keep winning games of footy."
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