Almost two years since his most recent AFL game, former Melbourne captain Jack Trengove says he hopes to return to more contact work by the start of February.
But despite being back running, the forgotten man of the Demons midfield won't set a date for when he expects to play his first game since round two, 2014.
Fifteen months on from undergoing a second round of surgery on the navicular bone in his left foot, Trengove said he is close to stepping up his training, having been running since August. "I'm back to running now, the next real stage for me is to get into the footy stuff, agility, power movement sort of thing," Trengove told RSN on Monday.
"Hopefully by the start of Feb I can get into that and tack out what's going to be a big season."
But having dealt with setbacks before, the former No. 2 draft pick remains reluctant to specify a date when he may play again. "As cliche as it is, it really is a week-to-week sort of thing, even a day-to-day thing.
"I'm ticking off the sessions as they come and I'm adding a little bit more but the nature of the injury, it's about adding load and seeing how the foot reacts to it.
"At this stage, touch wood, it's working well. It's easy to run around and kick a footy but to get tackled, tackle yourself and do all those sort of movements is a different thing itself."
Despite having been relieved of the captaincy two years ago, Trengove, 24, theoretically has plenty of football ahead of him. He conceded that although recent years had brought significant tribulations, he remained upbeat about the prospect of adding to his 81 games with Melbourne.
"I guess I'm one of those guys that's quite competitive, so you want to get back out there as soon as possible," he said. "I guess that can hurt you if you go too early, so patience is the key to make sure you're listening to your foot and the bones within your feet, to make sure they're fully mended before you go again. Hopefully this time around I've nailed it."
Trengove was similarly optimistic about the Demons' prospects in 2016, believing Paul Roos' side was well-placed to improve on its seven-win season last year. "This pre-season's been tremendous. I've seen a lot of improvement, a lot of the guys that have been around for a bit have really taken that next step," he said.