Daniel Wells trains in 2012
We are happy with the volume he's getting done
NORTH Melbourne remains confident star midfielder Daniel Wells is on track to play in the NAB Cup.
Wells entered this pre-season with achilles tendinopathy (severe tendon inflammation), which was the legacy of an achilles strain he suffered against Essendon in round 20 last year, and has been on a restricted program for much of the pre-season.
But Wells, who turns 28 on Sunday, has been able to gradually increase his workload since starting pre-season training with North's rehab group at Utah in November.
Two weeks ago, he began repetition running and competitive drills, including some of the Roos' inter-club sessions with Geelong.
North medical services director Steve Saunders told NMFC.com.au this week Wells was a chance to return in the Roos' round one NAB Cup matches against Richmond and Melbourne on February 22.
"'Wellsy' is coming along really well," Saunders said.
"He's had a chronic tendinopathy and those things can take a little bit of time.
"We are really happy now that he's doing high-end agility and dynamic work and training with the team. We are happy with the volume he's getting done, so he's tracking well.
"We expect Wellsy to take part in the NAB Cup as well. Whether he plays every game or two or three of them will just depend on how he's tracking at the time."
At the end of last season, North decided not to send Wells in for achilles surgery.
Instead, Wells had a complete rest in the off-season and began a rehab program in Utah that centred on swimming and bike riding. He also did some running in the indoor stadium where the Roos trained for much of their time in the US, but was careful to not change direction. He did not do any kicking either.
To double-check his recovery was on track, Wells left Utah several days before the rest of North's squad to consult a specialist, who confirmed he would not need surgery.
Back in Australia, Wells continued his rehab program in the lead-up to Christmas, gradually increasing the intensity of his sessions. He also ran on an AlterG treadmill, which is fitted with an adjustable harness that allows players to reduce the percentage of body weight they are absorbing on impact.
Since North's return from the festive break, Wells has significantly lifted his training intensity as his achilles continues to improve.
However, the Roos are maintaining their cautious approach with Wells, limiting his training sessions to ensure he has sufficient recovery time.
North can do so knowing Wells is naturally fit enough to cope with a limited preparation.
He was unable to take part in contact work for most of the 2012 pre-season as he recovered from blood clots in his lungs. But, remarkably, he was North's best player in its round one loss to Essendon, and went on to average 21 possessions a game for the season.
Unfortunately, pre-seasons and injuries have gone hand in hand for Wells during his 10 years with the Kangaroos. His only injury-free pre-season came in 2011, when he went on to share North's best and fairest award with Andrew Swallow.
Nick Bowen covers North Melbourne news for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Nick