North Queensland's million-dollar man Jason Taumalolo is bidding to return three weeks earlier than scheduled from ligament ruptures in his knee and lead a host of big-name stars back from injury this weekend.
Taumalolo has been named in the Cowboys extended reserves list for Friday's clash with the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium, a little more than a month after going down with a medial ligament tear in his knee against Brisbane.
The Tongan powerhouse had initially been scheduled to return in round nine at the earliest.
Coach Paul Green confirmed Taumalolo's recovery is well ahead of schedule, with a final call to be made on his availability later in the week.
“He's done everything asked of him so far so it's a fair bit earlier than initially expected," Green said on Tuesday.
"Still being a bit cautious you don't take any risks either.
“I'd probably like a couple more days to get a better look at it to know clearer about whether or not he'd be right to play.
“He's been working as hard as he can off the field to try and get back.”
Elsewhere the Roosters will welcome back co-captain Jake Friend from a month-long shoulder injury on Anzac Day.
Friend is still required to pass fitness protocols this week to lead his side against the Dragons, but his expected return is a significant boost for the premiers.
Latrell Mitchell has been slated for a switch to five-eighth with the club confirming Luke Keary won't play due to concussion, though Lachlan Lam can also come into the halves after being named on the bench.
Joey Manu is also back from suspension as the Tricolours are still without Isaac Liu (broken finger) and flyers Brett Morris and Ryan Hall (knee injuries).
The Warriors too have Blake Green (groin) back in the halves after a two-week layoff as Gerard Beale shifts out wide to cover the loss of try-scoring Kiwi international David Fusitu'a.
Fellow big man Blake Ferguson has been named for high-flying Parramatta after a rib issue of his own ruled him out of their Easter Monday thumping of Wests Tigers.
The Eels also have Manu Ma'u (knee) and George Jennings (suspension) as notable inclusions on their extended bench against Newcastle, who will go into Sunday's clash with an unchanged 17 despite pressure mounting from a 1-5 start to the year.
Brisbane's James Roberts returns to their starting line-up against Cronulla, as does Tevita Pangai following a two-week suspension.
Jayden Su'A has been dropped to a Broncos reserves list which also features Matt Lodge, who was ruled out last week with a throat injury.
The 117-kilo prop is scheduled to meet with a specialist on Wednesday after suffering a blow to his throat in a round five loss to Wests Tigers.
Lodge will require medical clearance and an assurance that he can't do any further damage if he's to return against the Sharks.