Jared Petrenko has his sights set on a NAB Cup return after making a better-than-expected start to his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery.

Petrenko dislocated his right shoulder in Adelaide’s Semi-Final win over Fremantle. The gutsy forward was able to play against Hawthorn the next week, but booked in for a reconstruction on the day of the Crows Club Champion presentation in October.

The 23-year-old has already resumed light skills work and says he’s on track to play in round one.

“I’m about a month ahead of schedule,” Petrenko told afc.com.au.

“The damage to my shoulder was just enough to require surgery. It wasn’t a full-blown mess, so it didn’t take as much work to repair and I’m in good hands with the surgeon and the physios here at the Club.

“It’s usually a six-month rehabilitation but I’m looking to get back in five, which would be late-February or early-March. I’m hoping to sneak in a couple of NAB Cup games.

“It’s a lot better than I first thought. I was anticipating I’d miss all the NAB Cup, come back through the Eagles and possibly miss the start of the AFL season proper. It still seems a long way away when I think about it, but it’s looking a lot brighter than two months ago.”

Petrenko sustained the injury when he landed with his right arm outstretched late in the final quarter against Freo. The former rookie is no stranger to shoulder injuries – he was overlooked in the 2007 AFL National Draft as he recovered from a reconstruction on his left shoulder.

“It was actually my ‘good’ shoulder this time,” Petrenko said.

“I’d never had any dislocations or subluxations in that shoulder, so it was a foreign feeling.

“When it happened I was thinking, what’s going on here? It’s the wrong side.”

Concerned he might miss the biggest game of the season and his AFL career, Petrenko was consoled by teammates as they walked off the ground after beating Fremantle. As it turned out, his fears were unfounded and he was cleared to play in the preliminary final against Hawthorn.

The fierce-tackling forward got through unscathed, but was substituted to make way for veteran Graham Johncock in the second half.

“The Hawthorn boys were belting me all day, which was fair enough, but that sort of contact was never going to be an issue,” he said.

“Falling over and landing awkwardly again was the only worry, but it was fine.”

Still, the injury required surgery – and quickly to limit the disruption to Petrenko’s 2013 season.

He was forced to cancel a long-planned trip to the United States with teammate Bernie Vince. Instead, he was confined to a sling and ventured no further than Victor Harbor so he could attend regular appointments with his surgeon.

“Bernie was calling me every day while he was away. The first three nights I didn’t answer his calls or write back to his texts,” he said.

“I couldn’t bring myself to listen to him and the other boys that were over there because I was only a few days post-rehab and wasn’t in the greatest mood. After a while, I started speaking to Bernie every day.

“It was disappointing, but the surgery needed to be done and the US will still be there next year.”

Petrenko is part of a small rehab group at West Lakes, which also includes Vince (shoulder), Luke Thompson (ankle) and Matt Jaensch (groin).

He has already resumed light skills work and will increase his training load in the New Year.

“It’s pre-season, so you do a lot of running anyway but that’s pretty much all I can do at the moment – plus some bike work, leg weights and all that fun stuff,” he said.

“After Christmas I’ll get into some more non-competitive work and build up from there.”