Collingwood forward Dan McStay is on track to make a miraculous return to senior football after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in November, with Round 20 the target date.

The former Lion - who crossed to the AIA Centre ahead of the 2023 season - missed out on the club's premiership victory with a separate knee injury last year he sustained in the preliminary final against the Giants.

The good news comes as the Pies attempt to create a makeshift forward line against the Western Bulldogs on Friday night in the absence of Jamie Elliot (vascular), Maxon Cox (knee), Brody Mihocek (hamstring), Jordan De Goey (abdomen), Reef McInnes (concussion), Will Hoskin-Elliot (hamstring) and Joe Richards (foot).

Bulldogs WON BY 18 POINTS
Marvel Stadium

Collingwood is hopeful that Jeremy Howe has overcome his groin issues to be available for this week while Ash Johnson and Nathan Kreuger are likely to be relied upon.

Swingman Billy Frampton could also be used in multiple roles as the re-introduction of key defender Charlie Dean offers more flexibility.

High-performance manager Jarrod Wade gave some insight into the stage McStay is at with his recovery, whilst providing a timeline for his return.


"Dan McStay's knee is tracking really well," Wade said.

"We got clearance about two weeks ago to return to contract training. He's building up his contact throughout multiple ways. He's doing that one-on-one with the coaches and then he's also doing two-on-two tackling drills and even getting into smaller side of games like four-on-four.

"We got to make sure we take solid progressions with him and that he's really comfortable and confident and that's been the case for Dan.

"It's been around six months and two weeks at the moment and we'll keep on making those progressions.

"And then when we come in post-bye, he'll be getting pretty close to starting match play with the team, building those minutes and then a return to play."

McStay's likely inclusion to the side is a massive boost for the club, which looks to defend its premiership.

The 28-year-old's time at his second club has been anything but smooth since joining the Pies as a free agent.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 22: Nick Daicos of the Magpies (left) and Daniel McStay of the Magpies celebrate during the 2023 AFL First Preliminary Final match between the Collingwood Magpies and the GWS GIANTS at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 22, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Featuring in only 14 games, McStay managed to play the opening five rounds of the 2023 season before he was sidelined with a finger tendon injury.

Craig McRae was forced to wait until Round 18 for the left-footer to return, as he suffered an infection on the finger that was operated on.

From the Fremantle clash, McStay was a crucial part of the Pies' forward line, kicking multiple goals in all but one game, inclusive of the preliminary-final win.

But the turmoil of Collingwood fans, a cruel high-grade medial ligament knee injury ruled out the key forward of the 2023 AFL Grand Final, which was ironically against his former club.