New South Wales' Game Two hero Ryan Hoffman has described Cooper Cronk's chances of playing in next Wednesday's third Origin game as "very close".
Cronk broke his arm in the series-opening loss to the Blues in Origin I and hasn't played since. But Hoffman says the Blues need to start preparing for a Queensland side buoyed by the return of their most clutch player.
"Cooper's very close. Very, very close. I wouldn't be surprised if I see him playing next Wednesday," Hoffman told NRL.com.
"It's typical Cooper. He's a long way ahead of his rehab, which just shows what a diligent player he is in that regard. We have to be ready."
Storm coach Craig Bellamy admitted Cronk had begun doing light contact work in Melbourne last week, but was loathe to declare his star halfback was ready for a return.
"He's been doing some training. He's done a little bit of contact. It's been very light though," Bellamy said.
"It'll depend on the medical team to be quite honest. I imagine he'll have to have another scan to see how it's healed and then they'll go from there."
The original prognosis on Cronk was a six-week layoff, however Bellamy said Cronk had worked around the clock to return as early as possible for both his club and state but was weary of him coming back too early.
"I know he'll be keen as mustard to play, obviously. Hopefully we won't take any chances. And I'm sure the medical staff won't take any chances," he said.
"But he's always been a pretty quick healer. It was always tough when he first did it, they couldn't say whether it was four weeks or six weeks or eight weeks, it's just how it heals.
"I think he's been getting into a few different potions and lotions or his diet-type thing to try and heal the bone quicker. He would've done all he could, but I'm not quite sure what he's been eating or taking into his body. I think there's been a lot of stuff that you probably think is yuck.
"But that's just him. He's so committed and so determined. I wouldn't count him out. We'll just have to see what happens. It'll come down to him and the medical team – mainly the medical team."
Meanwhile, Maroons skipper Cameron Smith believes clubmate Will Chambers has the perfect opportunity to cement a spot on Queensland's flank following a possible career-ending ACL injury to incumbent wingman Brent Tate in Origin II.
Chambers was on standby for the Maroons in Sydney and eventually missed out, but is favourite to fill Tate's spot ahead of Brisbane hopeful Dale Copley.
"Last time if we had a reshuffle of our backline with Greg and Billy under an injury cloud for Game Two, he always going to be in the team," Smith said.
"He didn't harm his chances [on Monday night]. I thought he was pretty good. He was one of our better players. He was tough, he ran the ball well. He was good defensively, and that's what you need in an Origin player.
"He turns up every week, doesn't matter where he's playing, doesn't matter what side he's playing on the field, he just does his job. And he's been on the cusp for a couple of years now.
"He's been 18th man I think for three or four matches. So I'd like to think he's a real good chance. I think there's a bit of talk about [Dale] Copley being a chance as well, but Will Chambers, he's spent a bit of time as 18th man and on the cusp. So I think he's a real good chance."