Newcastle Jets have launched a hunt for a new hero after visa star signing Wes Hoolahan was ruled out until 2020 with an ankle injury.
The veteran Irish Norwich City legend was lined up to be a key part of the Jets attack this season until he was injured in last week's FFA Cup clash with Adelaide United.
Tests and scans yesterday confirmed the 37 year old would be out of action until January at the earliest with extensive ligament and cartilage damage which required surgery.
"It's a pretty bad injury," Jets coach Ernie Merrick confirmed today. "It's a shame. He won't be available until the New Year.
"He'll still be a strong influence around the team and certainly helping the more inexperienced younger players, but it is a big blow."
Merrick said Hoolahan was coping "pretty well" with the prognosis, and was already targeting a return in time to make a big impact to push for the finals series at least.
"He's just so fit and healthy [normally] but I did speak to him after the operation," said Merrick. "He's pretty keen to come back and help with a run into the finals.
"He was pretty upbeat but obviously he must be hurting from just being out here, playing well, season hasn't started - and he gets a bad injury.
"It's pretty tough on him."
Merrick insists the injury hasn't derailed his plans for the season and he has the depth to re-adjust his side on the eve of the new season starting.
But the club is already looking for a possible injury replacement to come in and take Hoolahan's place while he recovers.
"We've got space in the squad obviously," he said. "We've got the finance so we'll certainly be looking at as there's someone out there that can fit the bill.
"Sometimes someone is disillusioned with where he's at or comes back from overseas or is not getting a game with an elite club, so sometimes they just pop up."
He added: "There's no names as yet, but it's 12 months a year you're really recruiting for this type of situation."
"The option's always there."