Injured Tigers a chance to return
The Wests Tigers could receive a huge boost ahead of their clash with the Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon with up to four players a chance to return from injury.
Aaron Woods, Tim Grant, Mitch Moses and Matt Ballin were all sidelined for the Round 9 win over the Rabbitohs but were at Concord Oval for the side's training session on Monday morning.
Tigers skipper Aaron Woods looms as the biggest inclusion after missing the past three games with an ankle injury he picked up in the Round 6 loss in Newcastle.
The 25-year-old has already amassed 1,044 running metres in just six games and would be a welcome addition against the intimidating Canterbury pack.
The initial prognosis suggested Woods would be back for Round 11 – incidentally also against the Knights – but the Blues and Kangaroos prop said he was a chance to return this weekend as long as he pulled up well from back-to-back sessions on Wednesday and Thursday.
"I'd love to play but I've just got to leave it in the physio's hands. He says it's sort of up to me as well but I've just got to make sure the ankle is right by the weekend," Woods said.
"We saw the surgeon last week and he just said I should come back next week for the Newcastle game. That's the goal… but if it pulls up good this week then I might be a chance [to play] the Dogs.
"I did a first session with the squad today. I didn't finish the whole session; they just monitored myself and Tim Grant.
"I've done a lot rehab and physio on it. I did a lot of running on it last week but no real skill work. It felt really good out there today.
"We've got a day off tomorrow so we'll see how it pulls up."
Woods brushed off any suggestions his lack of match fitness would jeopardise his chances of being selected for the Blues ahead of the series opener on June 1.
"If you need a game to get yourself ready for Origin then you're kidding yourself," he said.
"I'm just worried about getting on the field at the moment. I haven't really thought about that."
Woods hinted new recruit Matt Ballin was a chance to make his club debut after missing the first nine games with a serious knee injury.
The former Sea Eagles hooker hasn't played since tearing his ACL in Round 24 last year but is on track to make his long-awaited return.
Ballin would provide terrific support for Robbie Farah in the hooking role, but it is more than likely he will be eased back into rugby league via the Intrust Super Premiership.
Regardless of his return date, Woods said he was looking forward to having the 2008 and 2011 NRL Telstra Premiership winner in the side.
"He might be half a chance this week," Woods said when asked about Ballin's fitness.
"I know he's stinging to get out there. He's pestering the physios, he does that much extra work so it's a credit to how hard he's worked over the pre-season with the injury that he had.
"We had him out there for a field session today. Just his talk and his seniority around the place has been great for us. He's a class player and he's been around for years.
"The Manly sides he played in were unstoppable at times so to bring that to our club has helped the boys; especially with the leadership we lost last year."
The NSW representative could be joined in the front row by another man with State of Origin experience, with Tim Grant on track to return after missing the win against his former side with a knee complaint.
"It's been a hard two weeks but in saying that I think I should be right for this weekend," Grant said.
"Today was the first run I had with the boys. The last week or so has been in rehab and in the pool and that sort of stuff but I got through today so I should be right.
"We sort of had the luxury of the rep round to get it right. I missed the Souths game which I would have loved to have played."
Five-eighth Mitch Moses confirmed he would be a definite starter after picking up a quad strain in the warm-up before the South Sydney game.
"It's all good now. I got a few sessions in last week and then had a full session today so I'll be sweet and ready to go," Moses said.
Fullback James Tedesco will not play as he recovers from a fractured shoulder blade he sustained in the Round 9 win.