Boom Yarrawonga recruit Willie Wheeler is tentatively planning a round one comeback.
Wheeler missed all of last season after he was diagnosed with a foot issue on the eve of the season which required surgery.
He was recently given the green light by his specialist to resume running.
The former Williamstown star said he would be taking a cautious approach in regards to his highly-anticipated debut for the Pigeons.
Wheeler revealed he required an additional operation after the initial surgery wasn't a success.
"The injury is slowly getting there, I had to have two bouts of surgery but I've been back running for the past six weeks," Wheeler said.
"So things seem to be on track but I'm not going to try and rush anything and I wouldn't say I will be definitely right for round one.
"That's the aim but it's a long season and I will be taking a cautious approach."
Wheeler said he intends to ramp up the intensity at training when the Pigeons return from their Christmas break.
"I took part in a few training drills before Christmas," he said.
"The next step in my rehab is to gradually introduce a change in direction as opposed to running in straight lines.
"The rehab so far has been fairly tedious with a lot of band work to build strength back up in the foot."
Wheeler has spent almost two years on the sidelines due to the combination of COVID and the injury.
He played half-a-dozen matches for Nightcliff over the summer of 2020 where the foot injury flared.
The imminent return of Wheeler is a massive boost to the Pigeons' finals aspirations.
They have also enjoyed a productive season on the recruiting front and appear genuine top-three hopes.
The arrival of Michael Gibbons at JC Lowe Oval was easily the biggest recruiting coup over the off-season.
The Pigeons also snared the prized signature of key forward Leigh Williams who has been a prolific goalkicker in the Eastern Football League and played in a flag for Norwood.
In a further bonus, mid-sized forward Jess Koopman is set to make a return from shoulder surgery which ruled him out for last season.
Koopman proved to be a dangerous option in attack in 2019, highlighted by two bags of seven goals.
The Pigeons are set to boast a star-studded midfield at the least the equal of any side in the competition.
The prospect of ruckman Lachie Howe alongside Gibbons, coach Mark Whiley, Wheeler and younger brother, Harry is of VFL standard and a nightmare for opposition sides to try and combat.
Gibbons was a dual J.J Liston Medal winner with Williamstown in the VFL.
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Wheeler trumped Gibbons for Williamstown's best and fairest in 2016 to highlight his undoubted ability as a classy midfielder.
The pair also played in a flag for Williamstown in 2015 alongside Leigh Masters who claimed the Pigeons' best and fairest last year.
Wheeler said Gibbons should still be playing for Carlton.
"I can't believe Michael got delisted," Wheeler said.
"But I'm pumped by the prospect of playing alongside 'Gibbo' again.
"I'm probably better off blocking the opposition for him and letting him weave his magic. I'm sure he will prove damaging.
"Let's be honest, 'Gibbo' shouldn't be running around in the bush and should still be on an AFL list.
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