AN EARLY season return is not out of the question for luckless Geelong forward Daniel Menzel, although the complication of knee tendinitis could create further delays in his bid to return from a fourth knee reconstruction.
Menzel is on track in his latest comeback and remains confident he will be back playing in 2015 – although that will initially be via the VFL.
Knee tendinitis has been an issue Menzel has been managing for the past year and the 23-year-old has little way of knowing when it is going to flare up.
"There's still every chance, and if everything goes right, it (his return to football) could be at the start of the year," Menzel told AFL.com.au in an extensive interview.
"But there's no timeframe on it at the moment. It's one of those ones where we've got to be so careful with it."
Menzel has begun to join in selected drills during the club's main training sessions, although he continues to be monitored closely by Geelong's fitness staff.
"I've had a really good 12-14 weeks but there's a lot of soreness in it (the knee)," Menzel said.
"Being a tendon issue, we need to push it to where it is sore, but not go above the threshold.
"So it could take three months for the pain to go down or it could take six to nine months.
"It's a real unknown, which is frustrating at times, but I know, if we keep on top of the rehab, hopefully I can play a fair bit of next year."
Menzel's rehabilitation has consisted of copious amounts of 'prehab' work, as he looks to strengthen his reconstructed knees and prevent another injury reoccurrence.
Exercises in the gymnastics room are all part of Menzel's strict routine as he eyes his first AFL game since rupturing the ACL in his right knee in the 2011 qualifying final against Hawthorn.
"The load and the stress on the knee, in the gymnastics room, is less than it is out on the ground," Menzel said.
"Every single session I do in the gym, or out on the ground, I think about footwork and where my foot is placed and not getting in vulnerable positions which has, in the past, maybe been a reason why I've done my ACL.
"For us it's controlling it as much as we can, keeping my legs underneath my body, so that I'm in a really strong position so it doesn't happen again."
Daniel Menzel works hard on the track behind teammate Josh Walker. Picture: Geelongcats.com.au