Wodonga Raiders' recruit Ethan Boxall won't start training until early next year after undergoing a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) operation on his troublesome right knee.
Raiders announced the classy forward's return on Tuesday night after seven months in Canberra.
"I'm coming home mainly because the footy's not going ahead and next year I don't think the NEAFL's going to be the same anymore, Canberra might not have a side," Boxall said from Canberra.
The time off will allow Boxall to recover from the July 1 surgery after playing just one practice match for the ACT outfit.
"I had a PCL reconstruction," he said.
"It was an injury from four years ago and they (medical staff) said I didn't need the surgery then."
The recovery process is expected to take six months, so Boxall is confident it won't have any impact on next year's competition, which is COVID-pending of course.
The 180cm Boxall has some freakish skills and his high-marking highlights reel would be the equal of any O and M player in his five seasons at senior level.
He snared a mark-of-the-year contender over Corowa-Rutherglen defender Kade Kuschert in 2017 and grabbed another 'speccie' over team-mate Jaxon Neagle and Wangaratta's Frazer Dent in the 2018 qualifying final.
"Probably his last five or six games (of 2019) he was really important for us and was just starting to play some of the footy he was capable of," Raiders' coach Jarrod Hodgkin said.
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"He's a really important piece of our side, as much as I wanted to stay positive this year, we were going to miss him because he's such a good player, it's great to get him back.
"He's really good one-on-one when he's got the ball and you know he will do something good with it."