Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary will miss at least the first three weeks of the 2022 NRL season as he continues his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.
While there has been speculation Cleary would be available to play as early as this week, the Panthers medical, performance and coaching departments have opted for a more conservative approach.
"With a long and challenging season ahead of us, it's critical that we give Nathan the time he needs to return at his physical best," coach Ivan Cleary said.
"While it's obviously a difficult decision and of course we would have loved to have him out there, we believe this will ensure Nathan has the best opportunity to play throughout the year at the level he demands of himself."
With the Panthers' co-captain likely sidelined until Round 4, local junior Sean O'Sullivan will make his first NRL appearance for the club against Manly Warringah Sea Eagles on Thursday.
Did someone say KFC?