COLLINGWOOD is expected to make only one change ahead of the preliminary final against Greater Western Sydney with All-Australian midfielder Nick Daicos set to replace vice-captain Taylor Adams on Friday night.
Daicos hasn't played since suffering a hairline fracture in his knee against Hawthorn in round 21, but the 20-year-old is ready to return after completing a six-week rehab block.
Coach Craig McRae admitted the club feared the Brownlow Medal contender would miss the remainder of the season when scans revealed the extent of the injury early last month.
"No, I wasn't confident (he would return in 2023). There was some concern (his season was over)," McRae told reporters at the AIA Centre on Wednesday.
"When a bone has to heal no one knows how much time that is going to take. There is a hope, but it doesn't mean it is going to happen.
"Credit to the medical staff and to Nick, obviously, to follow the plan. Now he gets back for a preliminary final."
Adams, who turned 30 on Wednesday and shares a birthday with Brayden Maynard and Jakob Ryan, suffered a low-grade hamstring strain during match simulation last Friday.
McRae said the 2020 Copeland Trophy winner is facing an uphill battle to be fit in time for the Grand Final if the Magpies progress past the Giants.
"That's the unknown," McRae said. "We are hoping so. He is progressing really well. It was only a minor hamstring strain; what that means is he is a chance. You would see the work he is doing. It is a race against the clock, but we've got to get there first."
Small forward Jack Ginnivan is expected to retain his spot in the 23 after being the sub in the seven-point win over Melbourne a fortnight ago, but defender John Noble is set to miss out on selection again after being dropped ahead of the qualifying final.
"I had a chat to Johnny early in the week. He is disappointed, as you would be, but the quality human that he is he has trained so well this week," he said.
"I keep using the analogy of waiting in the slips. If something comes through you've got to catch it."
Friday night will mark McRae's 50th game as senior coach on the day the three-time premiership player celebrates his 50th birthday.
After leading the Magpies to a preliminary final berth in his first season in charge, McRae will face off against former Richmond colleague Adam Kingsley for a spot in the Grand Final, with the first-year Greater Western Sydney coach emulating the same feat in his first season at the helm.
"Kingers and I are very similar; he just does much more weights than I do, he spends so much time in the gym," he quipped. "He is a great fellow, I'm really, really happy for him. I'm not surprised by the success that follows him. It has always followed him. I wish him well, just not this week."
Collingwood has won its past two meetings against GWS, most recently by 65 points on Mother's Day in round nine, but the Giants prevailed by four points in the 2019 preliminary final at the MCG.
Los Angeles Kings president Luc Robitaille was an interested onlooker at training alongside Collingwood CEO Craig Kelly and GM Graham Wright.