On-field general Mitchell Pearce and Origin stars Daniel Saifiti and Kalyn Ponga are likely to be re-united for Friday night's clash against the Sydney Roosters in a timely boost as the Newcastle Knights pick up the pieces from a devastating loss to Melbourne Storm.
Pearce [hamstring] and Saifiti [ribs] missed the Storm's 48-4 demolition of the Knights on Saturday night on the Gold Coast while Ponga lasted less than 40 minutes after leaving the field for a HIA and not returning.
Saifiti and Ponga are considered certain starters against the Roosters at Sunshine Coast Stadium with Pearce confident he will recover in time to play.
The veteran playmaker picked up a small hamstring tear doing extras after a training session last week while Saifiti was ruled out of the Storm clash the day before the game after failing a fitness test on his rib cartilage fracture. Middle forward Jesse Sue should also return from a hamstring strain.
A decision on whether centre Bradman Best makes his comeback from ankle surgery will be made this week with the teenage game-breaker back in full training. But coach Adam O'Brien may opt to err on the side of caution with him given his injury history and delay his return a further week.
"A scan on Junior's [Pearce] hamstring showed a really small tear but he reckons he'll be right," O'Brien said. "He's running already and I'll be naming him but he'll have to get through the week.
"Bradman's a chance as well but it will come down to whether his loads are where they need to be and there's the possibility we'll give him another week of running before he plays.
"JSaf [Jacob Saifiti] has a bit of an ankle issue that we'll need to monitor but otherwise, everyone else is only nursing some wounded pride. Klem [David Klemmer] and Kalyn are fine following their HIA's."
After consecutive wins over the Warriors and North Queensland, the Knights reality check against Melbourne was more like a high voltage jolt that once again exposed the vast difference in class between the two sides. The Knights appear almost awestruck whenever they take the field against the premiers with 10 straight defeats since 2015 a testament to what's become a debilitating inferiority complex.
To be fair, the Storm have been absolutely destroying plenty of other sides in similar fashion but that will be cold comfort to the Knights.
After another poor start, they simply had no answer to the relentless pressure they were put under by the Storm attack with the ridiculous ease of some of Melbourne's tries a real confidence killer.
At 18-0 eight minutes before halftime, there was still a glimmer of hope Newcastle could make a game of it but three tries in the blink of an eye left it 30-0 at the break and it was a matter of how far then.
O'Brien was giving nothing away about the potential for team changes but with some troops back, he clearly has some thinking to do.
Teenage winger Dom Young, responsible for two early errors that put his side under the pump from the get-go, needs to learn fast how to carry the footy securely if he's to keep his place in the top grade. He could find himself under some pressure this week if Starford To'a is fully fit.
Another player likely to be in O'Brien's sights is backrower Lachlan Fitzgibbon, who could be the one to pay the price for some lazy decisions in defence with both Daniel Saifiti and Sue to slot back in the side.
If O'Brien opts to leave Mitch Barnett at lock and bring Sue off the bench, Brodie Jones could find himself in the starting side at Fitzgibbon's expense, who may find himself out of the squad altogether.
One player who has surely done enough to hold his place is prop Josh King, who has had a real impact off the bench in the past two games.