Dragons second rower Lance Thompson's passion to play has been rewarded with an early return from a foot injury making him available for St George Illawarra's clash with the Panthers this weekend.
The good news provided some welcome relief for coach Nathan Brown who is likely to be without centre Mark Gasnier for at least two weeks.
Gasnier, who had recently returned from a knee injury, injured his quadriceps muscle against the Eels on Saturday night and had an MRI this afternoon. Results will be known tomorrow.
Thompson, 25, was ruled out for the (regular) season after fracturing his foot against the Rabbitohs in round 15, just over five weeks ago, but his commitment to rehabilitation has helped fast-track the injury.
“It feels great knowing I can play again,” Thompson said. “I was shattered when I was first told I'd be out for the season. It's been long and hard watching them play, but they've been going well up to last weekend.
“I stayed off my foot as much as I could and I've done all the rehab I've been asked to. If I hadn't, I would have been out for the year.
“I can't wait to get out there and pick up where I left off. That's the disappointing thing. I think I was playing good footy and would have had a chance to make Origin.”
Thompson said his only concern about returning for Sunday's match at WIN Stadium was putting out Henry Perenara or Dean Young, who had both played second row in his absence.
“They've been awesome,” Thompson said. “I think my form will probably warrant me a place in the starting line-up, but that worries me a bit because the other guys have been playing so well.”
Meanwhile, Jason Ryles will undergo a shoulder reconstruction tomorrow.
Ryles joins Trent Barrett (ankle), Amos Roberts (shoulder) and now Gasnier again on the injured bench.