Dylan Walker would come into Manly's headquarters at North Narrabeen on his days off to do extra training, so he could keep in touch with the fitness levels of teammates.
The 24-year-old has not played for nine rounds but received the all-clear from NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg on Monday to play for the Sea Eagles against the Sharks on Sunday.
Walker had been sanctioned under the NRL's "no-fault stand down" policy, where players facing serious criminal charges are removed from playing each weekend until the court cases are finalised. Last Friday, Walker was found not guilty of two assault charges against his partner Alexandra Ivkovic.
At Manly training on Monday before he was officially cleared to return, several of his teammates spoke of Walker's value to the side if he was given the green light to play.
"He might be blowing a bit hard because there's nothing like match fitness, but he's well experienced and he's definitely been training hard," said centre Brad Parker.
"Even on our days off he's been coming in here to do some extras. So he's still very dedicated.
"He's been a bit of a mentor for me. He's not that much older but he's always given me a lot of confidence. Having him around, I get to see what he brings to the game with his skill and talent.
"Ask anyone here and they'll say his energy is infectious. He brings a lot of hype and gets the boys up. Even though we've been going through some tough times with injuries and what not, he's always positive and upbeat."
Greenberg: Walker is available for selection
Coincidentally, it was the Sharks that Walker last played against in a mid-February trial.
The fullback for the second half of that game was Brendan Elliot, after Tom Trbojevic injured his hamstring.
"I've not played an actual NRL game with him but we've had plenty of time in the pre-season. He's been training with us week-in, week-out," Elliot said.
"He trained with us last week so combinations and things like that are not a worry at all.
"It's ideal with Moe [Moses Suli] being a bit suspect [with a fractured finger]. Dylan is a big body but the energy he brings to the game is second to none.
"He will lift all the boys up and he can turn a game around with his energy. Then you add his speed and his power and strength. He's got a lot of great qualities."
Hooker Manase Fainu said Walker's experience would be a huge boost.
"I like his leadership. He's a big voice. A lot of us guys, who are quiet on the team, like hearing him. He talks to us and helps us keep going," Fainu said.
"He's someone who can create momentum. He was looking good in the pre-season – some of the best I've seen him. I know he can play some really good footy."
Alongside Suli, who had scans on Monday on his finger, Api Koroisau (ankle) joins the casualty ward with Trbojevic (hamstring), Daly Cherry-Evans (ankle), Lachlan Croker (hamstring) and Jorge Taufua (calf), Addin Fonua-Blake (meniscus) and Toff Sipley (suspected ACL).
Players like Elliot and Abbas Miski have slotted into the back five comfortably.
Parker said the secret was coach Des Hasler's edict of not picking a starting side for the first five weeks of training after the players returned from the Christmas break.
"Some weeks he had Turbo at wing or me on the other side, Jorge in the centres, so we were all mixed up," Parker said. "It didn't matter where we were, we had to make our tackles and perform.
"The only time we trained as a starting side was right before trials. That made everyone so well-rehearsed about knowing what they would have to do if they came in for an injured player."