Collingwood are hopeful both Jamie Elliott and Alex Fasolo will take the field in round one, as the pair began their post-Christmas training programs in the rehab group on Wednesday.
Both forwards underwent surgery late last year, with Elliott going under the knife in November for his ankle, while Fasolo injured his shoulder in training in December, and had to be operated on.
Collingwood assistant Brenton Sanderson told AFL Media on Wednesday that Elliott in particular would begin to train harder over the coming weeks, in a bid to return to full training within the next month.
“Jamie’s really confident that he’s going to start the season off really well, even with doing hardly anything before Christmas,” Sanderson said.
“I still think he’s a realistic chance for round one and to play well early in the season because of his raw athleticism.
“We’d be quite optimistic that he’d start the year off really well.”
The Pies aren’t taking any chances with their star goalkicker, and have already ruled him out of the AFLX competition, but Sanderson suggested he may play the final JLT Community Series game should he recover in time.
“All those things you can’t look too far ahead. Guys accelerate through a rehab program, others have a few setbacks along the way,” Sanderson added
“It’s impossible to put a definitive date on it but we’re confident and he’s confident that we’ll see the best of him in 2018.”
Given Fasolo’s surgery was more recent, the Pies aren’t as confident in Fasolo’s availability for the opening round, but because it was a shoulder injury, Sanderson says his fitness won’t hinder his return.
“With his shoulder, he can get a ton of running in so fitness won’t be an issue,” Sanderson said.
“It’ll just be the confidence of tackling and getting hit while he’s in marking contests and things like that.
“It’s hard to put a definitive date on when he’ll return, but I still think we’ll see him back to his best form in early 2018.”