Jack de Belin has been named on St George Illawarra's interchange bench for Thursay's match against Brisbane – 993 days after his last NRL appearance in the Dragons' 2018 elimination finals loss to South Sydney.
The 30-year-old played his first match in almost three years for the club's NSW Cup team against Wests Magpies at Lidcombe Oval last Saturday and re-joined the Dragons NRL squad for training on Monday.
After initially indicating he would not rush de Belin into the NRL team, St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin has decided that the match against the Broncos at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium is an ideal opportunity for him to make his return.
The selection of de Belin in the No.17 jersey is one of a number of changes to the Dragons side beaten by Wests Tigers last Friday night, with fullback Matt Dufty returning from a shoulder injury and winger Mikaele Ravilawa and second-rower Josh Kerr completing suspensions.
There are also positional changes, with Jack Bird moving from centre to second row, Brayden Williame shifting one position in field to replace him and Cody Ramsey returning to the wing from fullback.
Tariq Sims was among a large contingent of Dragons players on hand as de Belin played 45 minutes in last Saturday's 24-18 NSW Cup loss to the Magpies and predicted it would not take long for him to regain the form that once had him considered one of the NRL's best forwards.
"Jack might take one, two or three weeks to adapt to the speed of the game now but he is a competitor through and through," Sims said.
De Belin came on midway through the first half against Wests and lacked match fitness, despite having performed a mini pre-season for the previous eight weeks.
Griffin is understood to have been impressed by how well de Belin pulled up after the match when he reported for training at WIN Stadium on Monday.