Melbourne Storm are determined to treat star full-back Billy Slater with the utmost care, reluctant to rush him back from a shoulder injury.
Slater missed the most of the 2016 NRL season after undergoing shoulder surgery in March, though he was almost cleared to make an unlikely return in the finals series.
The 33-year-old has since returned to training, his skills on show during a session in Melbourne on Friday.
Storm head coach Craig Bellamy, however, is wary of putting Slater into full contact training before Christmas.
"He's been great with his running, he's doing most of our skills now and the conditioning running he's been doing has been really good," Bellamy said on Friday.
"It's great to have him back, obviously to have his experience working with this [young] group.
"He hasn't done any contact work yet and we're trying to leave that as long as possible, but at some stage we're going to have to start doing that, early in the new year and we'll just see how it goes from there.
"I think everyone is probably a little bit wary and everyone's got their fingers crossed that it's going to be OK because, not only will he be very handy to have back in the team, but we've just seen how hard he's worked pre-season and we'd love to see him come back and play.
"It's been a long road and been really tough what happened to him ... we're just taking it step by step as the medical staff, what they think is the best way to go, and the right way to go, we've stuck really tight with that but at some stage we're going to have to test it out."
Meanwhile, centre Will Chambers will return to full training in January after recovery from surgery on his foot.
As for lock Dale Finucane, he suffered a setback at training in his return from a tendon problem in his knee.