MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 25: Eric Hipwood of the Lions celebrates during the 2019 AFL round 23 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Brisbane Lions at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 25, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Brisbane key forward Eric Hipwood could return for the Lions' as early as May in what would be a miraculous turnaround since rupturing his ACL in July last year.

Hipwood was expected to miss a majority of the 2022 season following the diagnosis, placing the Lions' forward structure with the prospect of challenging for the flag without one half of their twin tall pairing of Hipwood and Joe Daniher.

Despite the initial signs, the 24-year-old has been able to tick multiple boxes ahead of schedule in his recovery from the knee injury, which was sustained in Round 17 against the Saints last season.

Hipwood has already hit the track as part of the Lions' pre-season training regime, however the tall forward is absent from any contact drills as he continues his rehabilitation.

The 110-gamer is of the belief that he could line up for Chris Fagan's side for their Round 1 encounter with Port Adelaide, however his coach has other thoughts.

"He'd like to do more probably if you'd let him," Fagan said, per AAP. 

"He thinks he's going to be back for the start of the season. He won't be but he might not be too far in.

"May, end of May, is probably a reasonable time frame for him to get back if he doesn't have any hiccups.

LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA - JULY 14: Eric Hipwood of the Lions (second from right) celebrates a goal with Jake Barrett (left) and Cameron Rayner of the Lions during the 2018 AFL round 17 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Brisbane Lions at UTAS Stadium on July 14, 2018 in Launceston, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

"It's been pretty straightforward to this stage with no setbacks."

Should Hipwood be deemed fit to feature for the Lions in May, the athletic forward could line up against the Swans on May 1.

The Lions are scheduled to clash with the Eagles and Crows in Rounds 8 and 9 in the following weeks, with the AFL yet to confirm fixtures from Round 10 onwards.

Brisbane will still need to combat the loss of Hipwood for the opening months of the 2022 season, with recruit Darcy Fort seen as a chance to partner Daniher in attack.

Fort would act as a ruck-forward utility and rotate with first-string tall Oscar McInerney, while Daniel McStay would also share duties in the forward 50.

GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - MAY 18: Darcy Fort of the Cats celebrates a goal during the round nine AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium on May 18, 2019 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

The Lions are set to be bolstered by the returns of Cam Rayner and Noah Answerth this season, with the pair having missed the entirety of last season due to knee and groin complaints respectively.