WITH Geelong's NAB Challenge opener against Collingwood less than two weeks away, the excitement is building at Simonds Stadium.

And no player is more upbeat about throwing himself back into the fray than forgotten small forward Lincoln McCarthy.

The skilful little man, who is renowned at The Cattery for his bubbly personality, failed to play a game at any level last year after being struck down by a foot stress fracture.

But with his foot now feeling fine, and a big pre-season under his belt, the 20-year-old is itching to be part of the action again.

"I think I'm at a stage where I'm fit enough to be able to run out training drills," McCarthy, who was drafted at pick No.66 in 2011, told AFL.com.au.

"So I think I'm at least at a stage where I might get seen as available for the NAB Challenge.

"Whether I get picked or not, I'll just wait and see. But it's good to feel like I'm available for a game."

McCarthy was diagnosed with a hot spot in his foot late in the 2012 season, which was only a couple of months after he had made his AFL debut against Greater Western Sydney.

"The pain was never really excruciating, so I suppose I never thought I was (going to have to retire)," he said.

"It was just always there for a while, and I was thinking 'when is this going to go away?'

"But I never really got too down about it, even when I was doing all the rehab.

"There are such great blokes around this footy club that it's hard to get down. We're pretty lucky that we're in a club like we are."

He finally shook off his foot problem during the latter stages of last season, which enabled him to train with the senior team during the last two weeks of its home and away campaign and throughout the finals.

"I wasn't going too hard in the back end of the season, but it was just good to be out there kicking the footy again and doing things that I couldn't do for 12 months," McCarthy said.

McCarthy has progressively stepped up his workload during the pre-season.

He is still 'managed' by the fitness staff, meaning he never does a full training session two days in a row.

Evidence of this came on Monday when the Cats had an open training session at Simonds Stadium.

While most of his teammates slugged it out in 35-degree weather, McCarthy completed skills work indoors.

"I think there's a few of us who've had career-threatening injuries, and for the first six months to a year we get managed through that time," he explained.

Nevertheless, McCarthy says his foot is pain-free and that his doubts about his durability have gone.

"I haven't had a setback since I started the pre-season," he said. "It's been really good.

"I did a little minor roll of my ankle on Saturday morning, but that wasn't enough to make me miss a session. Touch wood it stays that way."

Now that he's fit again, McCarthy knows he needs to produce the goods this year to convince his coaches that he's a long-term prospect.

"That's what I've been thinking about all this pre-season," he said. "Every session, you've got to think of it as a chance to show that you're still capable of playing footy.

"I don't take anything for granted now that I've been out for a year. I try and make every session a good one."