St George Illawarra could be ready to play Jack de Belin as soon as Saturday night against Manly if he wins a Federal Court challenge against his NRL ban this week.
De Belin's case against the league will return to court on Monday for a three-day trial, which will determine the legality of the NRL's no-fault policy.
The NSW State of Origin lock hasn't run out for the Dragons since being charged with sexual assault in December, after being stood down from playing by the league for the duration of his criminal case.
De Belin has vehemently denied the criminal charge, having entered a plea of not guilty.
The 28-year-old's challenge against the league is being taken independent of the Dragons, but St George Illawarra officials will keep a close eye on proceedings.
"What I hope happens is that he does win," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.
"I don't know too much other than you (reporters).
"Will I pick Jack, if he is mentally and physically right? Absolutely."
Pressed further on whether de Belin had shown enough in training to be picked, McGregor said: "If we play a possible and probables at training when firsts play reserve grade, then yes, he's ready."
It comes ahead of a busy week for the lock, whose criminal matter is due back in Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday for mention. He is not required to appear there.
The Dragons had previously not picked de Belin in the pre-season, missing a trial against Newcastle through illness before not being named for the Charity Shield on welfare grounds before the NRL ban was announced.
However his potential return would be a massive boost for a resurgent side already missing fellow middle player Korbin Sims with a broken arm.
De Belin himself is also expected to be present in the Federal Court on Monday, in what shapes as the first significant test of the league's powers by a player since Terry Hill took on the draft system in 1991.
At the time of the policy's announcement, ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie claimed the new rules would give the game the power it required to fix its cultural issues.
Realistically, the fate of this week's trial could determine Beattie's future in the game given he has previously admitted his job is on the line after championing the policy.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg and the game's commercial boss Andrew Abdo have already provided written affidavits ahead of this week's hearing.
The challenge could also have repercussions at both Manly and Penrith, where Dylan Walker and Tyrone May have too been stood down under the same no-fault policy.
Australian Associated Press