Forward Tom Lynch has set his sights on a Round One return after foot surgery.
Lynch enjoyed a breakout 2013 season, breaking into the team in Round Four and playing 17 straight games until a nagging foot complaint put a premature end to his season in Round 21. Despite missing the last two matches, the hard-working former Saint topped Adelaide’s goalkicking with 33.
Lynch was limited predominantly to non-weight bearing exercise pre-Christmas, but is running pain-free and gradually increasing his involvement with the main training group.
Coach Brenton Sanderson said the versatile 23-year-old would be in the mix to play in the Club’s season-opener against Geelong at Simonds Stadium on Thursday, March 20.
“Lynchy’s got a fair bit of running under his belt, so I can’t see any reason why he won’t be ready to roll against Geelong, but if we don’t think he’s quite there in Round One, we’ll wait until Round Two, Round Three or Round Four – whenever he’s ready,” Sanderson said.
“Sometimes, we get a little bit obsessed with players being ready for Round One and that can lead to poor decisions.”
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Defender Brent Reilly is also pushing for an early-season return.
Reilly had surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder in July last year. The 2013 All-Australian nominee has completed a rigorous program of conditioning and is joining in most drills at training. He’s also working one-on-one with boxing and grappling coach, Waz Raymond, as he builds up to full contact.
Sanderson said Reilly would be selected only when he felt fully comfortable on the field.
“Brent Reilly needs to get confidence in his shoulder with full contact work,” he said.
“‘Radar’ will be the best judge of that. He might not quite be ready for Round One, but he’s not far away.”
Two-time leading goalkicker Taylor Walker is also progressing well.
Walker is taking part in skills drills and some controlled contact work at training. Sanderson said while it was exciting to see the powerful forward upping the ante in his rehab, it was imperative Walker and the Club continued to be patient.
“I was probably foolish to say he’ll be ready by Round One. He may well be ready then, but he won’t play until he’s confident, we’re confident and the medical team are confident,” he said.
“He also needs some game time under his belt. Like Lynchy and Radar, Tex won’t play until he’s 100 per cent ready.”
Walker and Lynch have spent considerable time together in rehab and often pair up in drills.
Physical performance manager Nick Poulos said the forwards had forged a strong bond.
“Lynchy and Tex are a formidable pair. They push each other along in their rehab and are respective of each other’s space and injuries when they work together in drills,” Poulos said.
“They’re two peas in a pod and have been really good for each other.”
All-Australian and dual Crows Club Champion Scott Thompson is also nearing a return from injury.
Thompson had minor hip surgery in October, but is back in full training. The 30-year-old won’t play against Port Adelaide in Adelaide’s first NAB Challenge game next weekend, but is expected to be available to play Carlton on Monday, February 24.
Clubs can play up to 26 players (six interchange and two substitutes) in the NAB Challenge games.
On Wednesday, Sanderson revealed at least three new recruits would play against Port next Sunday, with player game time to be managed throughout the pre-season competition.