Warriors front-rower Ben Matulino's playing return may be delayed as he fights to overcome an infection following knee surgery early in the new year.
Matulino injured his left knee during preseason training and underwent surgery in January which was expected to rule him out for the first six rounds however this latest setback could prolong his absence.
The infection has hindered his rehabilitation over the last month and he has been forced to use an antibiotics drip which he was wearing at the club's season launch breakfast in Auckland yesterday.
"I got an infection after my knee surgery," said Matulino.
"With every surgery, any time you open a wound there's a chance of infection. It happened to me so for the past month I've been on antibiotics.
"Before I got the surgery done they were saying round six so I don't know if it's pushed it back a bit.
"It all depends on how my knee goes at the time."
The two-time winner of the Warriors' Player of the Year award (2015 and 2012) has endured a frustrating time with the double blow of injury and infection severely limiting his ability to train properly.
The 28-year-old has been in the club gym each day completing exercises and physio to strengthen his knee before keeping scheduled appointments with a nurse to have his antibiotics replaced.
"I can't do any upper body work so the last month I've just done my rehab on my knee," he said.
"So I'll come into the club and work with the physios and do all my rehab in the morning.
"I've got to get my antibiotics changed every afternoon so I have to go back home before midday and the nurse comes and changes the bottle."
With Matulino out of action there's a front-row spot up for grabs with Charlie Gubb, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, and James Gavet just some of the contenders to fill in alongside veteran Jacob Lillyman.
"Jake had a disrupted preseason through injury but it's good to see Sammy, Albert and Charlie, they've had massive preseasons," Matulino said.
"We've been down a bit on props through the preseason through injuries and they've had to do the hard yards."
Coach Stephen Kearney remains hopeful that Matulino's return won't be delayed and hopes to have him on deck by round seven.
"Possibly (there could be a delay) but I think it will only be a week if that on top of where he was," said Kearney.
"I know it's been frustrating for Ben because it was the best space I'd seen him in (prior to the knee injury) in terms of physically. He was pretty disappointed as I was for him.
"But he'll give us a real surge when he does come back.
"There's an opportunity for some guys that are around him to really stake a claim."