Jarrod Croker has taken a step closer to being fit for the Canberra Raiders' season opener as he looks to make an earlier-than-expected return from a shoulder injury.
The Raiders captain has been given the all-clear to resume full-contact training, in a major boost for Ricky Stuart's outfit ahead of next Sunday's round-one clash with the Wests Tigers at Canberra Stadium.
It comes after Croker met with his surgeon on Monday afternoon, with a decision to be made on his playing availability closer to the season's launch.
Croker underwent the knife in late October to repair the damaged rotator cuff that he hurt in the Green Machine's preliminary final loss to the Melbourne Storm.
The club's coaching staff had been hopeful Croker would be set to return as early as round four, but now next week's match looms as a viable option.
"Croker has been given the all-clear to resume full squad training, after meeting with his surgeon and being assessed by club medical staff," a club statement said.
"Croker has been training with the squad for the past few weeks, but can now participate in all of the contact sessions.
"A decision on his availability for round one will be made closer to the game after he has completed some upcoming training sessions."
Croker missed the Raiders trial match against the Sydney Roosters, which they lost 26-20 at Seiffert Oval on Saturday.
Seb Kris and Harley Smith-Shields shared the left-centre duties in his absence, setting up a battle for the starting spot should the 30-year-old not be ready for round one.
Josh Hodgson played 40 minutes of the pre-season hit-out, in what was his first match for the Green Machine since injuring his knee in round nine last year.
The English international is now aiming to play the full 80 minutes as early as round one.