Orange Emus suffered a massive setback on Thursday when it was revealed they could be without Tom Goolagong for the rest of the Blowes Clothing Cup season, the veteran hooker will go under the knife to repair a badly broken finger next Wednesday.
Goolagong broke his finger in the greens' loss to competition leaders Bathurst Bulldogs last weekend and although he didn't give the injury a second thought initially, this week's scans revealed a break bad enough to require almost-immediate surgery.
He's expected to be sidelined for around 12 weeks which would put him in the frame for a return come finals time, although the recovery time on troublesome digits is often unpredictable.
It's obviously really disappointing, especially after back-to-back losses because I was really keen to play my part in getting the side back on track.Injured Emus hooker Tom Goolagong
Naturally, the 30-year-old said he's hopeful of making a comeback ahead of schedule. As he said, "you have to be optimistic".
"I'm looking at the end of the regular season, for sure. It's a clean break, needs two screws and a plate put it in," Goolagong said, the timing of the injury not great considering Emus are also without Nigel Staniforth, Simon Badgery and TJ Cunynghame in Saturday's monster local derby against Orange City.
"Honestly I thought it might have been ligament damage when I did it but didn't think it was too bad, so I strapped it up and kept playing on Saturday.
"Sunday morning though, it was pretty badly swollen, I had no range of movement and it bruised up, that's when I thought it might've been a bit more serious and the x-rays showed that.
"It's obviously really disappointing, especially after back-to-back losses because I was really keen to play my part in getting the side back on track but it's a contact sport, it's a part of rugby."
The greens' depth in the front-row has been enviable the last few years and coach Pete Bromley did have a number of options at his disposal to replace Goolagong this week, and beyond.
Prop Matt Findlay has shifted one spot in a few times over the past couple of seasons in Goolagong's rare absences, while former Blowes Clothing Cup player-of-the-year Al Hattersley has returned to the club this year too.
Bromley was lucky enough to not have to shuffle the side around too much though, with former Woollahra Colleagues hooker Charlie Henley landing at the club last week and providing an almost ready-made replacement.
Henley packed down at hooker in the Blue Giants' Kentwell Cup side, NSW Suburban Rugby Union's top tier, and will make his debut this weekend.
Goolagong, also a former Blue Giant, heaped praise on Henley too, based on what he's seen at training sessions so far, saying he's "slotted in pretty seamlessly".
"Charlie will be great for our side I think, he's actually one of handful of ex-Colleagues players we've got now," the former Blue Bulls hooker, who played Kentwell Cup himself, said.
"He's obviously played a really good level of rugby in the Kentwell Cup and seems to have picked up our style of play and lineout calls pretty quickly, and he's hit the mark straight away at the set-piece, so he's obviously got a good rugby brain and he'll probably provide a fresh outlook too.
"He's a top bloke too and that's more important, because he's fit in really well with the boys and has already bought into the culture at the club, he'll be great in that respect.
"I'm really excited to watch him play."
The local derby kicks off at 3.15pm at Endeavour Oval and acts as a curtain-raiser to the Westfund Ferguson Cup derby, which is the main event on Emus' ladies' day.
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