St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan has revealed he could have had his elbow cleaned out in the off-season, and potentially minimised the damage sustained to it just a fortnight out from the State of Origin series commencing.
Dugan's awkward collision with Paul Carter in the Dragons' 34-24 loss to the Rabbitohs in Round 11 kept him from featuring for the Red V three times while he also missed Origin I and II for New South Wales.
The 26-year-old said his elbow woes weren't anything new to him, and that by hyperextending it against the Rabbitohs it only led to further aggravations.
Dugan said it was "heartbreaking" to sit idly by and watch the Blues lose the series and alluded to the fact the risk of not getting off-season surgery outweighed the reward in the end.
"[My elbow] was one of those where it would flare up here and there. It wouldn't aggravate me and then there would be times where it would," Dugan said.
"It was just that sudden collision against Souths where it really flared everything up and I couldn't really do too much about it.
"I should've had it cleaned out at the end of last year but didn't. Once it flared up against Souths, it flared up again in training. I actually chipped another bit of bone off in training," he added.
"That's why I had to have the month lay-off. The bone was stuck in the joint so the surgeon said the best thing for it was a clean out and that's what happened. It's come along well so now just looking forward to getting a bit of match fitness back into it."
Ahead of schedule, Dugan made a solid return for the Dragons in Newcastle last weekend where he produced 156 metres and a line break.
However it would come at the expense of his eardrum, which he slightly perforated – a similar injury to the one teammate Joel Thompson is currently carrying.
Dugan declared however he was in contention to face the Sea Eagles next Monday night despite the "annoying" injury slightly affecting his balance.
The South Tuggeranong Knights junior also refused to buy into speculation over his selection chances for Origin III on July 13.
"I'm not too worried about it. If I get picked, I get picked," he said.
"I'd like to think that everyone involved has that confidence in me to play to my ability there.
"For me now it's just about training well, getting that match fitness back and playing well for the Dragons."