As the days shorten until kick-off in the Kangaroos’ meeting with England, so too do the odds of Daly Cherry-Evans taking his place at five-eighth for the do-or-die clash.
Cherry-Evans has had quite the week after making the quick trip home to be present for the birth of his second daughter.
The 25-year-old was back in time to take part in Thursday’s main training session in a bid to prove he was every chance of running out in the green-and-gold come the weekend.
The Manly halfback has been battling a hip injury that restricted him to just 30 minutes in last Saturday’s 30-12 loss to New Zealand.
Tim Sheens was absent from Friday’s media call due to illness and although he is expected to take his seat in the coaching box, questions about Cherry-Evans’ fitness were instead left to assistant coach David Furner.
“He had a run yesterday so we are expecting him to play,” said Furner.
“Obviously we’ve got to finalise the team but DCE trained quite well yesterday and I’m sure he will have a good, full hit-out tomorrow to makes sure he is right.
“DCE has had a pretty large week but I think that is probably something last week that we did miss. Having DCE leave the field and G.I. as well, it obviously reshuffled our side a bit and left us a little bit under strength, it’s good to have him back.”
Even if the Sea Eagles playmaker takes his place in the side, Furner did not rule out a Test debut for Ben Hunt off the bench.
Earlier this week skipper Cameron Smith pointed to a lack of depth in the halves during Saturday’s 30-12 loss to the Kiwis as a reason to call upon Hunt, who was named as 18th man.
Smith is desperate to ensure his side does not become the first Australian team in 40 years to miss the final of an international tournament.
With that very record at stake, the champion hooker is looking to embrace Sunday’s stage against the old enemy.
“We really enjoy playing against England, probably even more than we do against the Kiwis,” said Smith.
“There just seems like there is more tradition between Australia and England.”
“To be able to play in front of a Melbourne crowd in such a huge Test… it’s a big occasion.
“We have our backs to the wall, if we don’t win this one then we will be out of the competition. So we’ve got to make sure that we play well and give ourselves a chance of being there at the end.”
For the first time since the 2008 centenary Test, the Kangaroos will swap the green-and-gold for their heritage blue-and-maroon jersey.
England will also don a red and white strip to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Rorke’s Drift Test, in which a nine-man England team recorded a famous 14-6 victory over Australia at the SCG.
The two countries will resume hostilities at 4pm this Sunday in front of an expected crowd of more than 20,000 fans at AAMI Park.