Cronulla coach John Morris is confident halfback Chad Townsend will be fit for the club’s May 30 clash with Wests Tigers after training with his broken thumb in a guard.
The Sharks playmaker caught his thumb in the shirt of a teammate during opposed training on Monday but the fracture is not serious and he was able to train on Wednesday and Friday to further compound a welcome selection headache for Morris.
"It is not ideal timing but it certainly won’t be enough for him to miss any games so that is good news," Morris said.
"It is not a bad fracture, it is a small fracture at the top of his thumb. It’s not at the base of his thumb. He was able to get out there and do most of the session."
Since the Telstra Premiership was suspended on March 23, Bronson Xerri (shoulder) Josh Dugan (knee) and Matt Moylan (calf) have recovered from injuries that sidelined them from the opening two rounds and are also expected to be available.
Moylan is expected to play fullback with Shaun Johnson partnering Townsend in the halves and Xerri, Dugan and Jesse Ramien vying for the centre berths.
Round 3 top 5 fixtures
Dugan is the most likely of the trio to play on the wing, along with Ronaldo Mulitano or Sione Katoa, but if Moylan hasn’t fully recovered from a calf injury Dugan is likely to wear the No.1 jersey.
The logjam would have been even more of a squeeze if former Test centre Josh Morris hadn’t been granted a release after Cronulla’s round-two loss to Melbourne to play alongside his twin Brett at Sydney Roosters.
"Bronson is a definite starter," Morris said.
"Bronson would have been right to play in round three before the game was stopped so the extra break has been good for him to work on his body and just give that shoulder time to stand up to contact with some more strength work.
"Again, the break has been good for Matt Moylan, just to allow his rehab program a bit more time. He was out the back end of last year with hamstring issues but this one has been a calf and he has integrated back into nearly full training now so that is exciting news for Matt.
"Duges missed the first two games of the season and he has had some modified training to try and integrate him back into playing so that is good news for the club if all three are available."
Sharks prop Aaron Woods said there was nothing better than seeing Moylan, Dugan and Xerri fitter and healthier.
"It is exciting now to have the full complement of players on the training field and be able to practise. The next hardest thing is for Bomber [Morris] to pick the squad," Woods said.
"Moyz has worked really hard behind the scenes. It was a big transition or him. He played five-eighth at the club the first year and then fullback the second. It’s a lot different in the amount of running and the style of running.
"His body probably didn’t handle that too well last year. That’s the biggest thing he’s worked on over the pre-season. He’s had to get a lot more kilometres in the legs.
"There’s a lot more acceleration at fullback now. He’s not playing in the front line any more."
Round 4 top 5 fixtures
With the new six-again rule enabling the referee to restart the tackle count rather than award a penalty for a ruck infringement, Morris said they practised scenarios pertaining to this at training on Friday.
"I didn’t expect it but it’s in now and it is up to us now to support that decision and the thinking behind it certainly has merit," Morris said.
"They want to increase the ball in play and bring back free-flowing rugby league. I think they have all had their gripes with the wrestle that has been in the game over the last 5-10 years and the game is doing something about that so we need to support it the best we can."