Joey Lussick's roundabout, around-the-world journey back to blue and gold has suddenly left the cut-price rake as the last No.9 standing at Parramatta after Reed Mahoney's season-ending injury.
Lussick will be parachuted into Brad Arthur's 17 against Manly on Saturday night, as the first extended NRL run of his career coincides with another worrying late-season fade-out that has external pressure piling on the Eels coach.
Confirmation Mahoney will undergo a season-ending shoulder operation only adds to the pain at Parramatta following heavy defeats to the Roosters and Rabbitohs.
NRL.com understands Eels medical staff had considered managing Mahoney – one of the club's best performers through 2021 – and avoiding surgery in a bid to have him potentially return for the finals.
The extent of damage to his shoulder is believed to be similar to the dislocation that sidelined him for four weeks earlier this season.
Mahoney leaves field after tackle on Mitchell
Despite Parramatta's slide and questions about Arthur's future being raised in media reports, Mahoney's long-term health was prioritised by player and coach as they opted for him to go under the knife.
Instead it is Lussick now charged with servicing a Eels outfit against the in-form Sea Eagles – a club once synonymous with his last name.
Lussick spent time in the Eels and Manly junior systems, before making a 2017 debut in maroon and white alongside his brother Darcy with his dad Jason – himself a former club first-grader – on the Sea Eagles coaching staff.
An ugly 2018 falling-out with then-coach Trent Barrett – which ended with a public spray from Darcy in front of teammates – led to the Lussicks all making hasty exits from Manly.
Joey took up a short-term stint with Salford in the Super League that turned into a three-year stay.
The COVID-19 pandemic played its part in Lussick's return to Parramatta late last-season on a cut-price deal that ranks him in their bottom five full-time earners.
The 25-year-old impressed when called up as Mahoney's mid-season replacement in June, and is now set to carry the dummy-half can as the Eels fight to remain relevant in the premiership race.
A fourth straight loss to Manly on Saturday would likely mean the Sea Eagles pinch Parra's top-four spot, while the Roosters are also level with the Eels on 28 competition points.
Eels officials have spoken out in support of Arthur over the weekend as questions over their late-season form surface once more.
A 1-5 finals record during Arthur's tenure has proven justifiable cause for concern.
Match Highlights: Eels v Rabbitohs
So too what sort of shape they'll be in with Manly, North Queensland, Melbourne and Penrith making for the NRL's toughest final month of the regular season.
Star prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard (groin) is unlikely to return during that period, while the club is hopeful Blake Ferguson will recover from a calf injury for the Manly clash.
The Eels' other dummy-half alternative, former Warriors rake Nathaniel Roache, is sidelined with bone bruising in his knee.