ST KILDA defender Dylan Roberton has taken another step in his recovery from a serious heart issue, joining in contact work for the first time since he collapsed on the field against Geelong in round four.
The 27-year-old took part in Tuesday's training session at RSEA Park with the main group, which involved limited contact.
If Roberton keeps progressing, the expectation is he will be on track for day one of pre-season and return to playing in 2019.
Roberton won't take part in the club's main training sessions at this stage, which involve match simulation and a step-up in contact.
In July, Saints coach Alan Richardson told reporters that at one point, Roberton feared his career would be over.
"I think 'Robbo' might have had those thoughts, so that's starting to shift to the positive," Richardson said.
Roberton made the Virgin Australia All Australian squad last year and finished second in the club's best and fairest, behind midfielder Seb Ross.
Meanwhile, tough nut Nathan Wright has been sent in for a shoulder operation.
The 24-year-old had been out with bone stress in a knee and was set to play this week, but a flare-up has seen him sidelined and will force him out for the season.
"He has got some symptoms that are still a carryover from an old shoulder injury, so we've decided to put him in for surgery so that he can have a good crack at pre-season," St Kilda head physiotherapist Andrew Wallis told saints.com.au.
Wright was likely to go under the knife at some point, and with two games left in the AFL season, the decision was made to bring the procedure forward.
Forward Josh Battle will be unavailable for Saturday night's clash with Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium as he deals with a concussion sustained against the Western Bulldogs more than a week ago.
"He still has (concussive symptoms), so he's in the hands of the doc and won't play this week," Wallis said.
Draftee Hunter Clark is expected to return from illness.