Clayton Oliver during Melbourne’s open training session at Gosch's Paddock, Melbourne in 2022 (Photo by Cameron Grimes/Zero Digital Sports)

Melbourne superstar Clayton Oliver has taken a key step in his bid to be back playing football, rejoining teammates at training on Wednesday after more than a month away from the club.

The 26-year-old has been on personal leave since mid-December, deciding to step away from his duties to overcome medical challenges and prioritise his health and wellbeing.

Oliver has since been training solo away from the Demons' program to build his fitness back up ahead of the 2024 season, which will commence in early March.

The four-time best and fairest is now inching toward a hopeful full-time return in the red and blue, with the midfielder joining teammates for training on Wednesday morning.

Oliver trained with the rehab group at Gosch's Paddock in what was his first session with Melbourne since the club's pre-season camp in Lorne late last year.

“Fundamentally it's just great to have Clayton back and it's great to see him with a smile on his face and feeling better,” Melbourne football boss Alan Richardson said in a club update.

“He's done a lot of training himself. He's basically been in the hands of his medical team and that's gone really well for us and more importantly, it's gone well for Clayton.

“He'll still be doing ball work but on the side in the rehab group and we'll have to make sure we bring him up to speed from an educational point of view with any of the adjustments we've made to our game plan.”

Melbourne have 36 days until their Opening Round encounter with Sydney, giving Oliver five weeks to potentially be ready for his side's first game of the new season.

Clayton Oliver during Melbourne's open training session at Gosch's Paddock, Melbourne in 2022 (Photo by Cameron Grimes/Zero Digital Sports)

The Demons are already without a handful of attacking options for that game, with Kysaiah Pickett (suspension), Tom Fullarton (hamstring) and Ben Brown (knee) all set to miss the start of the season.

The Demons are also bracing to be without wingman Lachie Hunter for their first game of the season, with a niggling calf issue having sidelined the former Bulldog.

“It's disappointing for Lach. He's had a calf that's nagged him a little bit,” Richardson said.

“As we've upped the load, he's just struggled to be able to cope. Clearly then you've got to back off and that's where it's at right at the minute.

“He'd need a little bit of luck now (to play Opening Round), but the guys are pretty confident they're on top of what the issue is.”

Swingman Joel Smith is currently facing an unclear playing future after being handed a provisional suspension by the AFL following a positive drug sample from last season.

Melbourne are hoping defender-turned-forward Harrison Petty will be fit in time for their trip to the SCG, with the South Australian having missed the end of last year due to a serious foot injury.

The Demons have also seen positive signs from Angus Brayshaw (concussion), Bayley Fritsch (foot), Christian Salem (hamstring) and Jake Melksham (knee) in their respective recoveries so far this pre-season.

The Demons are set to face Carlton at Ikon Park in less than a month for what will be their sole pre-season hitout ahead of their season-opening clash with Sydney on Thursday, March 7.