ST KILDA is hopeful Sam Gilbert will be running by Christmas after the luckless defender underwent another bout of surgery on his troublesome left foot.
The 28-year-old had seemingly put the complaint he initially suffered last pre-season behind him to play three AFL games towards the end of the season.
But he broke down again in round 22 and consulted Sydney-based surgeon Kim Slater – a foot and ankle specialist – which led to revision surgery.
Gilbert is now scheduled to start pre-season on an off-legs program, which will extend until he gets the all clear from the surgeon.
The aim is to have the wingman running in December.
It's been a tough two years for Gilbert. He missed a big chunk of 2013 after hyperextending his knee in round six, and then had to spend nearly three months in a moon boot this year after his foot injury flared in April.
The stress fracture, which is situated on his fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot, developed during the 2014 pre-season with his first bout of surgery in early February.
Despite the Saints possessing one of the longest injury lists in the competition, they are aiming to have the majority of their players training by Christmas.
Eli Templeton (broken arm), Jarryn Geary (calf), Tom Lee (shoulder) and Shane Savage (fractured arm) will start pre-season on a full program.
Jimmy Webster (foot fractures), Brodie Murdoch and Tom Curren (groin surgery) face up to two weeks on modified programs when training starts but are then expected to ramp things up.
Luke Delaney (hip surgery), Tom Hickey (knee), Arryn Siposs (shoulder) and Josh Bruce (shin surgery) will also start slowly with an aim to accelerate before Christmas.
Hickey travelled to London in August to find a solution to the right knee tendinitis that plagued him throughout the year and is expected to be running when pre-season starts.
Youngster Luke Dunstan (shoulder) is expected to be in full training after Christmas following surgery towards the end of the season.
His draft counterparts Jack Billings and Blake Acres, who also didn't finish the season because of hamstring and quad injuries, are expected to start training on time.
The same goes for luckless forward Daniel Markworth, who was cut down again by injury this year when a torn hamstring ended his season early.
All four of the young players recently signed contract extensions.
The Saints' first to four-year players will start training on November 5 with the rest of the group to return on the 15th.