BUOYANT York City Knights are hoping to receive a huge boost from strike centre Jake Butler-Fleming as they head into a hectic July.

The Aussie ace, since returning to the club on a season-long loan from Toronto Wolfpack, has not been able to impact on their campaign so far due to injuries - the latest being a pectoral muscle tear suffered in the League One loss at Whitehaven exactly a month ago.

However, his rehab has been quicker than expected and he even has an outside chance of passing fit for this Sunday's visit of Newcastle Thunder.

Head coach James Ford confirmed: "Jake is very close (to a return).

"There's a possibility he might be fit this weekend. It would be great to include him if so.

"That said, we'll be fading him back in. He's done some non-contact skill stuff in training plus the conditioning side of things.

"We don't want to push him too far too soon but we'll build up the intensity and see how he responds."

There had been initial fears that 26-year-old Butler-Fleming's injury was season-ending but scans revealed the damage was less severe.

He was still expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Ford, also without Jake Normington following his departure from the club in May, was left with just one recognised centre on the books in Brad Hey, although second-row star Joe Batchelor has filled in to good effect in the threequarters - with the Knights bouncing back from that disappointment at Whitehaven with notable wins over Workington Town, North Wales Crusaders and Keighley Cougars.

The search for another centre - as well as a half-back - has been ongoing, but Butler-Fleming's return should afford them more breathing space, as well as added strike on the edges.

Ford added: "We'll always take the sensible approach with an eye on the longer term but it's great news for us that even if he's not back this weekend he will be back imminently.

“To have a player of that calibre come back would always be a boost."

Former Penrith Panthers junior Butler-Fleming, after playing five times for York on loan from Hull KR last season, including scoring a debut try in the memorable win over champions-to-be Toronto, signed a permanent deal with the Knights over the winter only to leave on the eve of the season having been offered a full-time contract by the Canadian outfit.

He made that switch for an undisclosed fee but played only once for the Wolfpack, plus twice on dual-reg for York's League One title rivals Bradford Bulls, before returning to the Knights in April on loan for the rest of the season.

He played only three times, however, before a dead leg suffered in the win at Hunslet ruled him out for the next two matches prior to the trip to Whitehaven.