Zac Guildford could make a remarkable return to rugby with the Crusaders within the next few weeks.
Guildford, who is taking self-imposed time out from the game after the alcohol-related incident in which he allegedly assaulted a party-goer in Christchurch, is doing a one-month course of "intensive" treatment at an undisclosed North Island location.
It is understood Guildford has accepted he has an alcohol problem which could lead to a quicker than expected return to the field.
But much could depend on the NZ Rugby Union's stance - it will hold its misconduct hearing after Guildford finishes his treatment.
His confidant Stu Bailey, with whom Guildford will board again when he returns to Christchurch, hopes he could be playing again very soon.
"I'm obviously very hopeful it will happen, but it's out of my hands," said Bailey, who talks to Guildford every day.
"The decision has got to be made by the rugby union, the Crusaders, and Zac's management team that he can go out and do the job. At the moment Zac's mind is on getting himself right."
Bailey said Guildford was being really positive, "and I'm truly impressed with the way he's gone about things".
Guildford was a bit of a victim of tall poppy syndrome, he said. "When a popular sportsman finds himself in trouble, the knives come out quickly."
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder would welcome his All Blacks wing back into the fold - provided certain conditions are met.
"If he sticks to getting professional help, we'd love to have him back," Blackadder said. "It's not so much a case of misconduct for us," he added. "It's an illness and for the first time he has admitted that and is getting the right help.
"If all the other parties agreed - Zac, his representatives and helpers and the NZRU - then returning to rugby could form an important part of his rehabilitation."
If Guildford wants to return, then the NZRU would be the biggest stumbling block to a comeback, but the Crusaders hoped the national body would show compassion. Privately, the Crusaders hope that given he is seeking medical treatment, missing three pre-season games and a couple of competition matches would be seen an appropriate penalty.
He is on only a one-year contract with the NZRU and will know that this is his last chance.
He has played 10 tests and scored six tries for the All Blacks, but been involved in a string of high-profile incidents over the past 18 months.