FREMANTLE ball-magnet Lachie Neale says he's on target to face Geelong in round one after recently returning to the main training squad.
Neale had been restricted to the rehabilitation group until last week after undergoing surgery on his wrist, shoulder and knee this off-season.
The reigning Doig medallist revealed he played most of last year – when he set an AFL home and away season record with 737 disposals – with torn cartilage in his wrist.
Neale then dislocated his shoulder in the final month of the campaign and also battled soreness when running, which was fixed by minor surgery on a knee tendon.
The 23-year-old star is now pain-free and hoping to join full training next week.
"Obviously the goal is to play round one and at this stage I'll certainly be able to do that," Neale said.
"I've got four weeks before our first practice game basically to sharpen up with change of direction and keeping up with the boys – they're flying out there at the moment, so that will take a little bit to get used to.
"But I'm not really expecting to be behind the eight-ball round one. The guys (medical staff) have mapped out a really strong program for me to be cherry-ripe.
"My body probably needed a bit of a rest as well from a bit of contact, so I think it will be a good thing."
Neale, who hopes to play some part in the JLT Community Series, is set to have more midfield support next season after battling against the odds last year.
Superstar teammate Nat Fyfe is closing in on his long-awaited comeback from a broken leg and ex-Hawk wingman Bradley Hill adds line-breaking pace.
Meanwhile, Harley Bennell is building his running workload after a fresh calf setback last November and is aiming to debut in purple in 2017.
"It's really exciting. Obviously, Nathan's a great player, Harley as well, and then we've got Brad Hill who's come in as well, so there's a really good mix of inside and outside (players)," Neale said.
"We've got young guys like Darcy Tucker training awesome and Connor Blakely as well is improving every session.
"There's a lot of guys that will be able to float through there and hopefully we can just stay fit and available for the majority of the season."
Ruckman Aaron Sandilands will also give Freo another dimension after only playing five games last season due to broken ribs.
But Neale didn't buy into talk the 211cm big man's return would hand Freo an added advantage at stoppages following the scrapping of the 'third man up'.
"It's going to be an adaption for us as well because we used the 'third man up' quite efficiently last year and the previous years," he said.
"We've got some pretty tall mids with David (Mundy), Nathan and Connor as well, so we used it to our advantage at times over the last few years.
"It will be interesting to see how that pans out."