Gold Coast's enigmatic high-profile signing Bryce Cartwright has been dropped from Garth Brennan's top 17 for Saturday's home clash with Newcastle - although he may gain a reprieve if Kevin Proctor does not recover from injury.
Even with Will Matthews unavailable after his third concussion of the season, Cartwright has been relegated to 18th man duties with Jai Arrow returning at lock and Keegan Hipgrave preferred as a starting second-rower.
Brennan said Cartwright, who played 37 minutes from the interchange bench against Melbourne last Saturday, would be kept on standby for Proctor, who has a groin injury, right up to the pre-game warm-up to the 3pm clash at Cbus Super Stadium.
However, he could be headed back to the Tweed Heads Seagulls the next day if Proctor takes his place.
Proctor will have his first run of the week at Wednesday's field session, giving the first indication of his likelihood to play. He has worked hard on the injury suffered in the 'wishbone' tackle that led to Cameron Smith being suspended for one match.
Nathan Peats has been cleared to return from a rib injury and will be the starting hooker, giving him two matches to impress the NSW selectors and keep his Blues jersey. Mitch Rein drops back to the bench.
"With Peats and Arrow coming back in, who do you leave out?" Brennan said of Cartwright's relegation.
"He's 18th man and it will hinge a lot on what Kevin Proctor does. If KP gets through, Bryce will probably stay at 18th man and if Kevin doesn't make it, he is one of the guys I would consider coming into the squad.
"I have to do what is best for both the player and the club. Bryce is down on confidence, there is no doubt about that.
"Players go through those periods at times, 'Koni' [Konrad Hurrell] has been the same and 'Elg' [Kane Elgey] went back to get some confidence. I just think those names in the side are going better than Bryce right now."
There is concern about Matthews's immediate future after suffering his third concussion for the season. He will be sent to a specialist this week and will not be allowed to return until cleared.
He has suffered concussions in his past two appearances in which he was unable to return to the field, and was ordered to have a week's rest in between.
"We will get him off to see a specialist and will be guided by the specialist has to say about how long before he should play again," said Brennan.
"It's important that as a club we are aware of the impact of concussions and what the research shows. We are not going to let him come back until everything is ticked off [with the doctors]."
Hipgrave, who was cleared of a broken wrist after copping a knock on Saturday night, will fill the left-edge back-row position which has proved a revolving door this season with Ryan James, Matthews, Cartwright and now Hipgrave filling the spot.