Key Canberra forward David Shillington has been ruled out of his side’s NRL season opener against the Cowboys with a rib cartilage injury.

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart admits the loss of David Shillington for their NRL season opener against North Queensland is a big blow to his side.

The Queensland and Australia representative suffered rib cartilage damage in the Raiders’ 31-14 trial loss against Newcastle in Tamworth on Saturday.

While Shillington is set to undergo scans on Monday, Stuart said it was looking like a two to four week stint on the sidelines for the 30-year-old.

“It will (rule him out of round one), but I’m waiting on the results from the scans today,” he said.

“It’s a big loss. David is an experienced player who has had a good off-season.”

Shillington may even take extra precaution returning from the rib cartilage damage after aggravating a similar injury against the Warriors in round six last year.

“It’s important to make sure we play everyone that’s fit and healthy, and David is a really experienced person, he’ll understand exactly where he’s at so I’ll leave it up to Dave to see how he’s going,” Stuart said.

While the loss of one of their key forwards isn’t ideal for the Raiders two weeks out from their season opener on Saturday, March 8, Stuart admitted his side had received their fair share of luck throughout the pre-season with an otherwise healthy playing roster.

“The work we do over a 12-week (pre-season) period is a lot of contact, a lot of collision, so we’re quite fortunate, touch wood, and we’re in pretty good shape,” Stuart said.

“Now it’s a matter of having two days off, and the squad will jump into a 10-day preparation ahead of the Cowboys.”

Canberra’s 2013 Rookie of the Year Paul Vaughan will likely replace Shillington for the Cowboys clash.