Blake Ferguson has finally been named to make his return for Sydney Roosters in round 14 of the NRL.
It was initially feared the former NSW winger would miss four months of rugby league after injuring his ankle in round four against his former club Canberra.
But specialist treatment in the United States has fast-tracked Ferguson’s recovery.
Speculation was rife he would be fit for round 12 and again last week but he will make a belated return against the Warriors in Auckland on Saturday.
Ferguson replaces NSW centre Michael Jennings in a number of State of Origin enforced changes for the Roosters.
Jackson Hastings will make his debut in the Roosters No.7 jersey, in place of Blues playmaker Mitchell Pearce, alongside the player he could replace in the Tricolours halves next season in James Maloney.
Off-contract Maloney could leave the Roosters at the end of the year and Junior Kangaroo Hastings, the son of club legend Kevin Hastings, looms as his most likely replacement at Bondi.
The Warriors have a key inclusion too, with Sam Tomkins returning from a knee injury at fullback in place of Siliva Havili.
The truncated round 14 kicks off with Wests Tigers hosting South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
The Tigers are without NSW stars Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods with the Rabbitohs missing Queensland’s Greg Inglis. Alex Johnston will fill in for Inglis at fullback.
“AJ has had a couple of games there before, he has done a good job and I am looking forward to seeing him back there,” Souths stand-in captain John Sutton told reporters at training on Tuesday.
Cameron McInnes will start at hooker for Souths, with Issac Luke out for a week with a knee injury.
Rookie Gold Coast playmaker Kane Elgey will miss up to six weeks with an ankle injury suffered in the Titans’ win over Wests last weekend. Daniel Mortimer will partner Aidan Sezer in the Titans’ halves for Saturday’s clash with Canterbury on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye will start in the Dogs halves with Trent Hodkinson absent on NSW duty.
Ryan Hinchcliffe will slot in at hooker and captain Melbourne in place of Maroons skipper Cameron Smith for the Storm’s match with Parramatta in the southern capital on Monday night in the final game of the round.
Brisbane, Newcastle, North Queensland, Penrith, Cronulla, St George Illawarra, Manly and Canberra all enjoy the bye this weekend.