GEELONG youngster Jackson Thurlow has taken an important step in his recovery from a lacerated kidney, with medical staff clearing him to start his running program last week.
Thurlow suffered the serious injury after copping a stray elbow from a teammate in a competitive drill at training in December. He avoided surgery, but spent six days in hospital under observation.
Cats football manager Steve Hocking told that Thurlow had entered a significant phase in his rehabilitation, with the club planning for him to be back in full training for the start of the season proper and ahead of Geelong's round one clash with Hawthorn on April 6.
"Jackson started running last week. From now, it's probably another three weeks of that before he's actually back in full training with the squad," Hocking said.
"He's still got a little bit of work ahead of him at this point in time."
After being given extra leave from the club after the Christmas break, the 20-year-old returned to Geelong in early February to build up the conditioning he had lost during his time away.
At that time, Thurlow was yet to receive the all clear from his specialist, to start training after scans showed the injury to the defender’s kidney had not yet properly healed.
However, the specialist has now given his go-ahead for Thurlow to up the ante with his program after the most recent scans came back without any concerns.
Hocking said the Thurlow would need at least a solid month of VFL football before being considered for senior selection.
However, the Cats won't rush his comeback considering the seriousness of his injury. 
"He got a lot of work done pre-Christmas but it's the weight that he's lost, since the injury, that will be one of the considerations," Hocking said.
"With our medical team and conditioning team, they’ll do the necessary work to make sure that it's a progression back over time.
"It won't be a case of putting him out there, it'll be progressively managed so that he gets back to the level to where he was at pre-Christmas because he'd certainly done some excellent work up until that point."
Thurlow has played 10 games in two seasons for Geelong after the club selected him with pick No.16 in the 2012 NAB AFL Draft.
The Cats have high hopes Thurlow can take over Corey Enright's all-important half-back role when the champion defender calls time on his illustrious career, likely to be at the end of this season.