Warriors coach Stephen Kearney expects injured halfback Shaun Johnson will be back "sooner rather than later" while he admits other players are lucky to retain their spots for Sunday's NRL clash against Canberra at Mt Smart Stadium.
Kearney would not reveal if Johnson was back running but said he was recovering well from a torn posterior cruciate ligament suffered in the round 19 defeat to Penrith last month.
The 26-year-old was initially expected to miss between six to eight weeks but Kearney had predicted he could return earlier than expected, and there's a chance he could be available for next week's clash against the Rabbitohs in Sydney.
"He's ticking along pretty well," said Kearney.
"Timeframe, I'm not 100 per cent sure, but probably sooner rather than later.
"I'm not going to say [if he's been running]. He's close. He'll be [back] sooner rather than later."
The club is sure to take a cautious approach and will resist the urge to rush him back, but Johnson's presence is vital to their hopes of finishing the season on some sort of positive note.
The Warriors are desperate to break a five-game losing run, but have looked low on confidence and short of attacking ideas in their last four matches without him in the No7 jersey.
The Kiwis international is much maligned for his perceived inconsistency but the Warriors have failed to register a win in 11 games without him, going back to the tail end of 2015 when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
Meanwhile, hooker Issac Luke was the major selection casualty in the wake of Saturday's demoralising 26-10 loss to Newcastle, after which Kearney slammed some of his players for their lack of effort.
Kearney revealed he was tempted to drop more players but conceded there were no better options to choose from in the club's reserve grade Intrust Super Premiership side.
With first-choice back-rower Bodene Thompson (pec) and front-rower James Gavet (broken arm) out for the season, and fellow prop Albert Vete (broken arm) still sidelined, the club's forward depth is being severely tested.
"If I thought there were better options I'd certainly make those changes, so there's a couple of lads that are lucky," he said.
"As I have said all along, if I think there's an opportunity where someone can do a job, which I think is going to be better this week, then I'll make necessary changes."