Newcastle Jets midfielder Ben Kantarovski will miss the rest of the A-League season after his jaw was broken in an off-field incident.
Kantarovski is understood to be facing surgery this week after he was allegedly punched while leaving an inner-city night spot in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The 21-year-old, who was preparing to return from a knee injury that had sidelined him for three months, was fined and disciplined yesterday by Jets officials, who issued a press release but otherwise declined to comment.
In the statement, Jets chief executive Robbie Middleby was quoted as saying the team were disappointed Kantarovski had "ignored club protocol while in rehabilitation" but accepted nobody was more upset than the 21-year-old midfielder.
"Ben is aware he has let down the club, his teammates and all our members, fans and corporate supporters in a critical part of the season," Middleby said.
The statement said police were not called to the incident. It is understood the former Young Socceroos skipper contacted Jets officials on Sunday morning to tell them he had been injured in an altercation.
He denied he had been affected by alcohol but was fined an undisclosed amount by the club's disciplinary committee nonetheless.
Kantarovski's injury is another shattering setback for a player who once appeared to have the world at his feet.
He was a 16-year-old schoolboy when he made his A-League debut in August, 2008 - at the time, the competition's youngest-ever player. A year later he spent a week trialling and training with German giants Bayern Munich.
But a training-pitch mishap in December, 2010, left him with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. A full knee reconstruction was required.
Kantarovski recovered to lead Australia to the FIFA under-20 World Cup.
Last year he made two appearances for the Olyroos in their unsuccessful London Olympic qualifying campaign.
This season he managed only four games for the Jets before tearing the meniscus in his problematic right knee.
He resumed light training two weeks ago and had been hoping to return for the finals.
- Sydney Morning Herald