Ben Hunt is set to be fit for November's State of Origin series in some welcome positive news for coach Kevin Walters.
The St George Illawarra utility is suspended for the club's final NRL round this weekend but is also battling a hip injury that was initially thought to be a quad complaint.
But the Dragons on Tuesday confirmed he will recover in time to play the Origin opener in Adelaide on November 4.
While his club form hasn't commanded selection, Hunt has the trust of Walters as Queensland's Ron McAuliffe Medal winner as players' player in the 2019 series.
He would likely line up in the No.9 or off the bench as a utility, plus provide cover in the halves.
Hunt's expected fitness is a welcome development for Walters, who faces some head-scratching moments as he attempts to stop a third straight NSW series victory.
Boom backrower David Fifita (ankle) will have surgery and could miss the entire series, while Michael Morgan has reportedly ruled himself out due to a lingering shoulder injury.
Moses Mbye (knee) is another centre option on the sidelines, joining Greg Inglis (retired) and Will Chambers (Japanese rugby) as regulars who are no longer available.
Tim Glasby (retired), Fifita and Ethan Lowe (neck) add further headaches for Walters, but it's the backline depth that's most concerning for the coach.
Dane Gagai is one centre with Origin experience left standing though and appears likely to slot in there or on the wing.
"It's obviously unfortunate and disappointing; you never want to hear of boys getting injured and especially with Origin being postponed to the end of the year," he said of their depleted stocks.
"We've got confidence in whoever they bring in. Fortunately for me I don't have to make those decisions."
He said there was still plenty of options though, singling out in-form Gold Coast fullback AJ Brimson as a versatile contender.
"He's been playing some great footy and has been in the mix for Origin," he said.
"He's a strong midfield player and that is what Origin is based on, just competing with all those little effort areas."
Cronulla's Ronaldo Mulitalo, Melbourne centre Brenko Lee and cousin Edrick Lee at Newcastle present as other options, while Walters could also place his faith in North Queensland pair Kyle Feldt and Valentine Holmes or bank on Brisbane winger Corey Oates rediscovering his touch.
Sydney's ANZ Stadium will host game two of the series on November 11, followed by a November 18 clash at Suncorp Stadium.
Australian Associated Press