Reinforcements are on the way but the Roosters are still short more than $3 million of their salary cap as Kyle Flanagan reclaims the No.7 jersey and 18-year-old prodigy Sam Walker gets his first call-up.
Forward leader Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (calf) and evergreen veteran Brett Morris (back fracture) are both back on deck against Wests Tigers for the premiers, while Flanagan has been recalled into the halves.
The NRL's leading point scorer was a shock axing by Trent Robinson two weeks ago "as part of his development" but returns to the scrumbase with his replacement Lachlan Lam (ankle) and dominant half Luke Keary (ribs) both sidelined.
Angus Crichton (knee) and Daniel Tupou (ankle) are at least another week away and Boyd Cordner (concussion) is another fortnight off.
Round 15 - Roosters trio return, Milford back
Flanagan will be expected to do the lion's share of game management with Keary out. Drew Hutchison slots in at five-eighth.
Walker's inclusion in the 21-man squad will fuel interest in a possible late switch between he and back-up hooker Freddy Lussick on game-day given rave reviews of the rookie playmaker.
The son of former Broncos half Ben, Walker was pushed straight into the Roosters COVID-19 bubble as soon as he turned 18 in June.
SBW trains with the Tricolours
NRL.com understands the young half has made an impressive fist of tackling drills against Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosiua Taukeiaho as Robinson weighs up when to pitch him into first grade.
Walker's signing last year in the face of serious interest from the ARU and several NRL rivals was hailed as a coup for the Roosters, with the Tricolours viewing him as a longterm halves option.
Meanwhile, fellow son of a gun Cooper Johns will wait in the wings for Melbourne as well after Jahrome Hughes (groin) was named at halfback to take on the Eels.
Johns is the son of Knights great and TV personality Matty, and has been in line for an NRL debut should Hughes fall short of lining up against Parramatta on Thursday night.
NRL.com understands that a final call on Hughes will be made on game day.
Nicho Hynes would be elevated from the bench if the Kiwi international is ruled out with Johns then expected to land a call-up.
Elsewhere, Anthony Milford returns from a hamstring injury for Brisbane with Brodie Croft dropped to the reserves for Friday's clash with the Dragons.
Cantebury's Will Hopoate is also back in the No.1 jumper against the Warriors on Sunday after six weeks out with an ankle injury.
Marquee recruit Luke Thompson drops back to the bench for the Bulldogs in a forward reshuffle that sees Josh Jackson at lock and Matt Doorey starting after debuting last week.