St George Illawarra forward Jack de Belin could make a surprise return from a shoulder injury for next Monday’s NRL clash with Canterbury.
De Belin hasn’t been sighted since picking up a shoulder problem in last month’s NSW City-Country fixture that was expected to rule him out until July.
But after showing good signs in his rehabilitation, the 25-year-old hasn’t given up hope of taking his place against a Bulldogs side who eliminated the Dragons in week one of last year’s finals.
“I’d forgotten all about that but now you just brought it up, it’s definitely in the back of my mind. That loss really hurt, especially first game of finals footy,” de Belin said on Monday.
“The way we lost the game there was pretty disappointing. I’d love to get back out there and put it to their forward pack who are pretty outstanding.”
De Belin admitted fearing his season was over when he first realised he hurt his shoulder for Country.
The Dragons hitman was then given an ultimatum of either undergoing season-ending surgery, or laying off for two months before addressing the problem in the off-season.
“I was riding high when I did my shoulder, especially after the City-Country game,” he said.
“To find out, it was pretty severe. I thought I was going to have to get surgery straight away. But to be able to play again this year, that’s outstanding, I can’t wait to get back.”
The unlikely return of De Belin would be a major boost for a Dragons side on the cusp of breaking into the top eight following a last-start win over a depleted North Queensland side before last week’s bye.
Coach Paul McGregor will also face court on Tuesday after being arrested for low-range drink driving in Wollongong in April.
De Belin said the playing group had moved on from the drama.
“He addressed it when it happened and we haven’t even spoken about it since. We’ve moved on,” he said.
“Everybody makes mistakes and he’s definitely learnt from that. As a playing group, we just put that aside and move forward and just worry about the footy games that are upcoming.”