Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce was a notable no-show at Monday night's Brad Fittler medal as questions remain over his availability for Friday's do-or-die semi-final clash against Canterbury.
Pearce was expected at the gala event at Sydney's Star City, but his seat was left vacant throughout the three-hour event at which Josh Dugan was crowned as NSW's best player during this year's State of Origin series.
Roosters captain Pearce is understood to have pulled out of the event at the last minute to ensure his gives his injured hamstring every chance to be right for Friday's Allianz Stadium clash with the Bulldogs.
The NSW five-eighth hasn't played since suffering the injury in the Roosters' round 24 win over Brisbane.
The Roosters lacked direction and their kicking game was off target without the 2013 premiership winner in their upset loss to Melbourne in the qualifying final last week.
The Bulldogs expect Pearce to play. His injured NSW halves partner Trent Hodkinson said Canterbury are training as if he will play.
"The Roosters are a quality side and with Pearcey coming back that will be a big boost for them," Hodkinson said.
"It will be a good test for us and I'm sure we will rise to the occasion."