The Sydney Roosters are confident hooker Jake Friend will be ready to return as early as next week.
Friend is scheduled to make his comeback from a shoulder injury within the next fortnight and fellow co-captain Mitch Pearce said he was making strong progress on the training track.
Friend has resumed contact work and is building up confidence in his surgically-repaired shoulder.
He could also be included for the Roosters’ trip to Brisbane next Friday.
“He’s been getting flogged around training and he’s desperate to get back,” Pearce said.
“He’s certainly going to be a massive asset if he does … He’s been doing a bit of wrestle and filling in at training so I think he’s feeling pretty confident with his recovery.”
While Friends’ return will be warmly welcomed by all at Moore Park, it will likely squeeze Matt McIlwrick out of the top 17.
McIlwrick has been good in the opening four rounds and helped the Roosters to a 3-1 start to the season.
The 23-year-old was released from the final year of his contract with Canberra to sign a one-year deal with the Roosters as Friends’ back-up.
McIlwrick said that regardless of what happened with Friends’ return, he would spend the rest of his tenure trying to prove his worth.
“I had a good opportunity to come here with Friendy out and I’ve just got to make the most of it,” he said.
“I’m not sure when Friendy will be back but I’m loving my time here … I’m thankful for my opportunity here and Jake’s been great at training.”