Albury star Daniel Cross has done a mini pre-season after one of the longest breaks of his long and illustrious career.
Cross will return on Saturday against Lavington, 45 days after he played against North Albury on Anzac Day.
“I reckon I’ve had three six or seven-game stints through my career when I was injured but, certainly since I’ve been at Albury, it’s probably the longest gap I’ve had between games,” he said.
“I’ve basically done a mini pre-season, running-wise, I should be alright, I’ve managed to do a fair bit of skill work with the rehab group, hopefully I shouldn’t be too far off the pace.”
The 35-year-old fitness fanatic suffered three medium-term injuries during his 249-game AFL career.
He ruptured a medial ligament and injured his shoulder during his time with the Western Bulldogs and then fractured his fibula in his first year at Melbourne.
Cross is now in his third season with Albury, but his growing commitments as rehab coordinator with Melbourne will guarantee he won’t rack up double-figure games as he has previously.
And given the Demons’ charge into third spot, Cross looks like being busy at finals time.
“The way finals sit, I’ve certainly looked at it,” he said.
“I’m reasonably confident that I should be OK, it depends on where we fall in terms of Albury, and Melbourne, as well.
“If we’re lucky enough to make it to the grand final, that’s now back on a Sunday, there’s no AFL (preliminary) finals on Sunday.
“Obviously there’s a long way to go for that, that’s what we’re playing for obviously.”
The Tigers are unbeaten after eight rounds, so it’s difficult to imagine they won’t contest the decider.
Dean Heta, Rhys King and Charles Gaylard will join Cross back in the team.
Lavington has made five changes and is a physically stronger unit, with a number of the team’s lighter-built youngsters, like Macca Hallows and Ethan Bakic, unavailable and omitted respectively.
Classy forward Marty Brennan returns from a quad complaint, suffered at representative training.
He was in superb form in the round five loss to Wodonga Raiders, kicking two goals.
It will be interesting to see how the Tigers handle Panthers’ coach Simon Curtis.
Albury made a beeline for his predecessor James Saker in his first year, working on the theory if you can rattle the coach, it will impact on the team.