MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 14: Zac Williams of the Blues kicks during a Carlton Blues AFL training session at Ikon Park on December 14, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Carlton defender Zac Williams could return to skills training prior to the new year as he continues to recover from an ACL injury that wiped out his entire 2023 campaign, while the Blues will take a "steady approach" with new recruit Orazio Fantasia.

The Blues' developing ranks returned to training on Monday, while a majority of the senior group, who were expected to return, took part in the first sessions ahead of their scheduled return next Monday.

Draftees and new signings were among the crop of Blues at Princes Park to start the club's 2024 program, with senior coach Michael Voss looking to go a step or two further next year after amassing a preliminary final finish in his second year at the helm.

Williams is expected to return to full fitness in February, potentially placing himself in contention for selection to start the new season when Carlton ventures to the Gabba to face Brisbane for Opening Round in early March.

The former GWS flanker will feel like a new recruit in Voss' side after missing the entirety of the 2023 season due to the knee injury he sustained last pre-season.

Speaking to media on Monday, Voss revealed Williams is on track in his recovery and could be joining the main group sporadically prior to the Christmas break.

"He's progressing as expected," the Blues coach said.

"If we use the timeline of his injury as a bit of a guide, he should be back to full fitness in the first week of February.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 14: Zac Williams of the Blues kicks during a Carlton Blues AFL training session at Ikon Park on December 14, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

"He'll progress, he's about 10 months in. He'll slowly start to join in the skills program throughout this next month.

"We've got the hope that, rolling into the new year, he'll start to feature more prominently."

Carlton secured Elijah Hollands through the recent trade period before signing Fantasia as a delisted free agency following his delisting at Port Adelaide, with the former Essendon forward adding to Voss' small forward depth chart.

Fantasia endured a luckless run with injuries during his time at Alberton and is set to start his life as a Blue in full fitness while coming up against a formidable line of attacking options for selection.

While the 28-year-old will undertake a "steady approach" in his first pre-season with Carlton, Voss is keen to see Fantasia put his name forward for a starting spot for the club's season opener.

"We took him on in the hope we could help in that regard," Voss said of Fantasia's recent injury history.

"We understood where it sat. Clearly, we feel like we can have an impact in getting him out there where his talent speaks for itself.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 08: Orazio Fantasia of the Power in action during the 2021 AFL Round 08 match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval on May 08, 2021 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

"He understands what's ahead of him. He understands that the position he's going for is going to have some genuine competition. The squad approach we had through last year will continue, so he just adds to that real squad mentality.

"That's what it takes to get through a 23-24 week season, you need to bat deep. So to be able to add even more talent in that part of the ground was pretty important to us."

Hollands won't be available for the opening two matches of Carlton's next campaign following a recent drug-related indiscretion that saw the former Gold Coast wingman found guilty of "conduct unbecoming" by the AFL.

Despite the distraction, Hollands has made it clear to the coaching group that his work rate will decide his playing fate as he starts training with his second club.

"The one thing that I said and that he's keen to do is that he gets a fresh set of eyes," Voss said of Hollands.

"He just wants to go out there and prove himself through the work he brings. That's all we've asked him to do and that's what we're going to afford him.

"What he does and how he behaves will be how he gets treated here. He's prepared to put in the hard work and he'll mesh in really well with the group."

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A number of Carlton players will look to see out full pre-seasons after interrupted build-ups to their 2023 campaigns.

The likes of Sam Walsh, Matt Kennedy and Marc Pittonet each required stints on the sidelines during the last pre-season, with Voss excited to see strong numbers on Monday to commence their 2024 plans.

"Without a really good pre-season we won't put ourselves in a great position. Early signs through day one and with how the players are coming back in, we've got a pretty fit group," he said.

"A large majority are able to hit the ground running day one. When you get that body of work in it really gives you the chance to set up your season well.

"It's pretty significant. You can dodge a lot of things, but the one thing you can't dodge is avoiding the work. There were circumstances last year through a lot of operations through the back end of last year where some couldn't get started in pre-season.

"We still had a group of players that did who have been able to back that up season after season, but we've also got another group who could do with some work throughout this pre-season."

Carlton will begin their new season against Brisbane in Queensland on Friday, March 8 before returning to Melbourne to battle with Richmond at the MCG the following Thursday in Round 1.