Shannon Boyd's State of Origin dreams will hinge on his recovery from a knee injury after he was ruled out indefinitely on Tuesday as the Canberra Raiders opened the door for Dave Taylor to end his NRL exile.
Boyd damaged his medial ligament last weekend and could miss just one game, but the Raiders are reluctant to put a timeframe on his return.
It effectively ends Australian prop Boyd's hopes of being called into the NSW squad for the second Origin clash on June 21 and puts him in a race against time to play any part in the series this year.
But the potential silver lining to his absence could be the return of Taylor, who has been battling niggling injuries and the chicken pox, after playing just two games so far this year.
The former Queensland powerhouse looms as a hard-hitting replacement for Boyd, but coach Ricky Stuart has named Sia Soliola in the front row and Taylor as part of an extended bench.
Hooker Kurt Baptiste could also play his first game of the year after recovering from an Achilles injury and being added to the squad to play the Penrith Panthers in Bathurst on Saturday.
Former Canterbury Bulldogs junior and Mounties forward Royce Hunt has also been included and is chasing his NRL debut after warming up as the Raiders' 18th man last weekend.
Luke Bateman will return to lock after overcoming a thumb injury as the Raiders chase a crucial victory before their bye next week.
Taylor's NRL comeback has been dogged by injuries and illness in a luckless year off the field.
But Green Machine forward Soliola is adamant the 123 kilogram wrecking ball deserves a chance in the top grade after being out of the team since April 1.
Taylor played just 19 minutes in his last NRL appearance against the Parramatta Eels, but the Raiders are confident he's ready to step up if called on.
"[Taylor] is always a good one to have on board, it's great that we've got a player like Dave with his experience, size and ball playing ability," Soliola said.
"Dave is a character. He's cool to have, but it has been tough for him considering all the things he's gone through.
"But in saying that, he's always been upbeat and coming to training always prepared. He's been smashing out the sessions they've provided for him.
"I know a lot of guys that would be in his position kicking stones or have their head down. But not Dave. He's a tough character and that's what you want here.
"He's just come in and done everything required of him. He hasn't whinged or moaned ... he's come in and done the work. It would be good for him [to play]."
The Raiders are desperate to bounce back after a heartbreaking golden-point loss to Manly last weekend.
But the Panthers loom as a dangerous challenge in a semi-final re-match of last year, with both teams fighting to cement their place in the top eight this season.
Boyd's absence will be a big blow after he powered his back to form, while the Raiders have also lost bench forward Dunamis Lui, who will miss the rest of the season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament.
Stuart has put faith in the club's depth, calling on rookie Hunt after impressive performances for feeder club Mounties while Scott Sorensen and Brent Naden are also in the extended squad.
"I think [our depth in the forwards] is fine, we've got player who have played in the NRL before and some experience with Jeff Lima and Dave Taylor. I think we'll be all right," said Josh Papalii.
NRL ROUND 14
Saturday: Penrith Panthers v Canberra Raiders at Carrington Park, Bathurst, 5.30pm. TV time: Live on Fox Sports 2.
Raiders team: 1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Junior Paulo, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Sia Soliola, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Luke Bateman. Interchange from: 14. Adam Clydsdale, 15. Royce Hunt, 16. Clay Priest, 17. Joe Tapine, 18. Scott Sorensen , 19. Brent Naden, 20. Dave Taylor, 21. Kurt Baptiste.
Panthers team: 1. Dylan Edwards, 2. Josh Mansour, 3. Dean Whare, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak, 6. Matt Moylan, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. James Tamou, 9. Mitch Rein, 10. Reagan Campbelle-Gillard, 11. Corey Harawira-Naera, 12. Isaah Yeo, 13. Trent Merrin. Interchange from: 14. Tyrone Peachey, 15. Leilani Latu, 16. Tim Browne, 17. Viliame Kikau, 18. Sitaleki Akauola, 19. Sione Katoa, 20. Moses Leota, 21. Peta Hiku.