McDonald who scored a try in last season’s Grand Final victory has returned to Australia after having surgery on a shoulder problem.
The 25-year-old provided cover at both stand-off and loose-forward and will leave a hole in the squad with only three games played in the Championship.
“Dane has decided to go back home and recuperate, he’s a bit down because he’s had so many injuries over the last few years and it’s got to him,” said coach Mark Aston. “He felt it would be best for him if he went back to Australia and we supported that. He’ll be there for a few months and we’ll see what happens.”
Aston added: “It’s disappointing that Dane had the injury at the start of the season. We are trying to develop players like Patch Walker and get him into our system and Dane was a fall back because he could play six or 13. But he’s going to be out for three or four months and that just about ends his season.”
McDonald joined the Eagles 2008 and was a favourite with supporters playing 81 games scoring 25 tries. But injuries have taken a toll with the latest problem coming in pre-season training and for the second time in 12 months he needed surgery on his left shoulder.
Aston is uncertain if the Queenslander will return. He said: “It’s been a couple of tough years for him. The way Dane plays the game is very physical and his body hasn’t taken it. He’s not as big as he needs to be to play loose-forward but he’s only a young kid. Dane’s had five good years with us and been great but at the moment he’s got to take a back step.”
There are no immediate plans to recruit a replacement although another long-term injury to another forward would stretch the cover.
Aston’s options will be boosted by the expected return of loose-forward Joe Hirst, recovering after breaking his hand.
“We’ve got cover and it opens an avenue for someone else” he said. “Pat Smith did well at Swinton and Patch is getting into our system. Joe Hirst will be back in a couple of weeks and we’ve got some good young players who are waiting their chance.”
Nev Morrison is set for a recall for the trip to Workington as a replacement for Scott Turner. The winger damaged ligaments in his left ankle in the win at Swinton and will be out for three weeks.