BATLEY BULLDOG Mark Applegarth has been ruled out of Sunday’s Heavy Woollen derby – and could face up to 12 weeks on the sidelines.
The back-rower, who only returned to action a fortnight ago after recovering from a broken hand, has suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage.
The 28-year-old was helped from the field just eight minutes into Batley’s 24-18 triumph over Hunslet last week.
And specialists have ordered the former Super League player to wear a brace for the next six weeks in a bid to avoid surgery.
Though his season is not yet over, head coach John Kear admits Applegarth is facing a frustrating few months.
“I am told specialists are going to act conservatively here, which could mean he doesn’t have to go under the knife,” said Kear.
“I am absolutely gutted to have lost Mark at this stage in the season, he is a leading light for us and his presence will be missed.
“He has gone from ever-present, having played all of last season’s games, to never present and he is hugely frustrated.
“Hopefully, if things go to plan, we might have him back in light training in a couple of months’ time. But a huge hole has been left and him missing certainly weakens us.”
In addition to dual-registered Huddersfield Giants prop Josh Johnson, the Bulldogs travelled to South Leeds last Thursday with just 16 available players.
Jason Walton (groin), Ben Black (dead leg) and Miles Greenwood (knee) were all missing, while George Flanagan and Ash Lindsay served suspensions.
However this weekend, Kear will be boosted by the return of Black at half-back as well as Flanagan and Lindsay.
Centre Walton is to be handed a late fitness test for the visit of sixth-placed Dewsbury, who are unbeaten in two league outings (kick-off 2pm).
A third-successive victory could send the Bulldogs to the Championship’s summit.
“Things are certainly looking up for the weekend, with a few players coming back,” said the former England boss.
“Dan Fleming and Anthony Mullally played very well in the Magic Weekend for Castleford and Huddersfield respectively, so I doubt they will be available.
“But we should have Josh (Johnson) and Jason (Walton) is improving by the day. Dewsbury are a good team and Glenn (Morrison) has certainly turned them around. He and his players deserves a lot of praise for that and we are expecting the best of them."
Meanwhile, the club are operating a one-off ‘payback’ scheme for the tie, which will see the Dewsbury club take a £2 return for every one of their adult supporters passing through a dedicated Rams turnstile – being operated by their own staff.