SEVERAL NSW hopefuls will return from injury this weekend in time to press their claims for a spot in the team for next month's series opener.
Manly duo Glenn and Brett Stewart, Kurt Gidley, Michael Jennings and Peter Wallace have all been named to return from injury for their respective teams, but there is still a question mark over the fitness of Canberra's Josh Dugan, who was not named to play against Cronulla on Sunday.
Glenn Stewart is a certainty to play his first game since the first-round victory against the Warriors, but his brother Brett, Kieran Foran (hamstring) and Steve Matai (shoulder) will need to pass fitness tests later in the week. Foran, as well as City winger David Williams (hamstring), sat out yesterday's session, but Glenn made it through unscathed in a major boost for the Sea Eagles ahead of the clash against Canterbury on Friday night.
''He still won't obviously be back to his best,'' coach Geoff Toovey said. ''It's his first game back in five weeks. It will take him a while but it's good to have him back in the side.''
Gidley returns from a knee injury to play in Willie Mason's first game for the Knights. Six days after signing for the rest of the season, the larger-than-life former NSW and Australian forward was named yesterday on the Newcastle bench for the game against Penrith at Hunter Stadium on Monday night.
In a 60-minute stint for Newcastle's NSW Cup team against Illawarra at Toyota Stadium last Sunday, 32-year-old Mason did enough to convince Bennett that he could give the Knights the size and strength they have lacked thus far.
''It's weird how things work out,'' Mason said after training yesterday. ''It's unfortunate the Tigers thing didn't work out. They're a great club, and Tim Sheens is a great person, but it didn't work out then, and I think things happen for a reason - obviously I belong to the Knights.''
In other team news, Shaun Fensom returns from a long lay-off for the Raiders, while Chris Sandow holds on to the No.7 jersey at Parramatta, despite being dropped to the NSW Cup last week.