St George Illawarra lock Jack de Belin is confident of playing in Saturday night's semi-final against South Sydney after revealing he had suffered a "scare" rather than a recurrence of the syndesmosis injury in his right ankle during Sunday's defeat of Brisbane.
While de Belin was named at lock, youngster Zac Lomax was kept in the No.3 jersey with centre Euan Aitken, returning from a hamstring injury, on the extended bench in jersey No.20.
De Belin is in a moon boot for the second successive week after lasting 52 minutes against the Broncos but has his sights set on playing in the ANZ Stadium clash with the aid of another pain-killing injection.
"It's just one of those things where I don't think it is going to be any good until the year is done," de Belin said on Tuesday.
"Luckily we are in the finals now and hopefully there is another three weeks to go and then I will have all the time in the world to get it sorted.
"For now, it's just a week to week thing and I am just worrying about getting it right for the weekend."
The NSW Origin forward, who said he had needed a needle to take the field in almost every game since round nine, suffered the injury in the round-25 win over Newcastle and did not train with the team before last Sunday's 48-18 elimination of Brisbane.
He had a fitness test before the captain's run at Suncorp Stadium last Saturday and a final decision was made on his fitness shortly before kick-off.
"To be honest, I wasn't too confident of playing at the start of the week but it was good to see the way it was recovering at a rapid pace and the performance staff and the physios were pretty positive as well," de Belin said.
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"After the captain's run I knew it would be good enough to play."
While there was concern he had suffered a recurrence of the injury when he was forced to leave the field, de Belin said the move was more precautionary after a "mis-step".
"It was more a scare than anything," he said. "I just tweaked it and all the other muscles around it just seized up because they had over-compensated for the injury."
Lomax, who has only played three NRL games, was expected to be benched in favour of Aitken, who has scored 10 tries in his 23 appearances this year.
Teammates Matt Dufty and Nene Macdonald thought coach Paul McGregor would opt for Aitken's experience.
"Zac has proved he can play NRL the last couple of weeks. He's also proved what a classy goalkicker he is getting three from three and some from the sideline with 40,000 Broncos fans in his ears last weekend," Dufty said.
"It shows the resolve of the young kid. But Euan is a competitor and in a tight game, he can score tries. He's marked [Greg] Inglis before.
"It's a tough decision as Euan is coming back from injury but if it was me, I'd stick with Euan because he's played 23 games this year and he's been in Origin contention.
Zac is a player of the future with a long career in the NRL ahead of him."
Macdonald felt Aitken deserved the recall.
"It's going to be tough for 'Mary' [McGregor]. But I think Euan has earned his stripes. He's done all the work all year," he said.
"He deserves that position back. To turn him down would be very tough."
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