Injured Melbourne Storm star Billy Slater is on track for an NRL return next year after a second shoulder surgery in as many years.
Slater, 32, missed the second half of last season and was ruled out indefinitely earlier in 2016 after requiring another operation.
However, the Queensland and Australia star said there was a small hope he could be back this year, although he is eyeing a 2017 comeback.
"It's been a tough 12 months," Slater told Melbourne radio station Nova.
"I had this same injury last year and I got it operated on in June last year and somewhere in the last nine months that operation hasn't been successful so I had to get it re-done five weeks ago.
"The signs are really good at the moment and the surgeon is really happy with where it's at.
"I get this sling off next week, which I'm looking forward to, and hopefully if all goes well I'll be [back] next year, but very slim chance this year."
The Storm and Maroons have been hit with injuries after Will Chambers (fractured foot) was ruled out for up to 14 weeks in mid-April.
Despite those blows, they have made a decent start to the season, winning five of their opening seven games to be fifth in the NRL table.