ALL GOING to plan, Jesse Hogan will make his Melbourne debut before the end of the season.
The Demons have set a very specific timeframe for the young forward's return from stress reactions in his back, beginning with his first running session on Saturday.
Melbourne football manager Josh Mahoney told AFL.com.au the club had employed a long-term view with Hogan's rehabilitation.
"The stance that we've taken has given him every chance to heal," Mahoney said.
"We're confident that he'll be able to get through and have no issues in terms of his career."
The 19-year-old will start the first week of his program on the AlterG Treadmill, a machine which allows players to run at a decreased percentage of their body weight.
He will then need to put together three or four weeks of running outside, before joining in two weeks of solid training to push for VFL selection.
Some solid form at the lower level should see him playing in the AFL by August.
"The plan is, everything going well, he should be available to play at the back end of this year," Mahoney said.
"It all depends on how he's progressing. It would be great if he could play a game this year, but it's not the end of the world if he doesn't either."
Initial fears were Hogan's stress reactions could have developed into a stress fracture in his back, but Melbourne pounced on the problem early and decided to place him on the long-term injury list to give him the appropriate time to recover.
During his two-month lay-off, Hogan – who appeared in one of Melbourne's NAB Challenge games against Geelong in the pre-season – has worked diligently on strengthening his core to avoid any recurrence of the injury.
Hogan's rehab program has included pilates and weight sessions, individually tailored for him, while the club also granted him the chance to spend some time at home in Perth recently.
"Jesse's doing a lot of extra work on stability. His weights program is different to all the other players," Mahoney said.
"The benefit we've got with this lay-off is that he can do a lot of work which he wouldn't generally have time to do."
Although he hasn't been able to play or train, the Demons have managed to keep Hogan engaged.
He has worked closely with forward line coach Dan McPherson and with some of the club's opposition scouts, in a bid to assist his off-field development.
But the Demons want him out on the field as soon as possible.
"He's had two or three weeks of not feeling any symptoms, which is a good sign," Mahoney said.
"We're confident he'll get back and have no issues."