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Luckless Dog hopes to be back early season

Hird won't appeal and stacks more Matt Thompson with Friday's Footy Feed
Clay Smith poses for a photograph during the Western Bulldogs 2015 team photo day at Whitten Oval, Melbourne on January 16 2015. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Clay Smith has joined his teammates in modified training drills and hopes to be back playing early in the season
It's been great to join in the drills and actually feel like I'm part of the team again.
Clay Smith

WESTERN Bulldogs youngster Clay Smith is making strong progress in his bid to return from his latest knee reconstruction and hopes to be back playing in the early stages of the season.
 
Smith ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee for the second time in July last year, rounding out a challenging period in his young career.
 
But he has joined his Bulldogs teammates in modified training drills and expects he will progress into a revised version of full contact training in the coming weeks.
 
"Within the early stages of the season, I hope I'll be back playing football," Smith, 21, told AFL.com.au.
 
"(Being back at training) is much better than running around an oval by myself at 7.30 in the morning, that's for sure.
 
"It's been great to join in the drills and actually feel like I'm part of the team again."
 
After playing 30 games in his first two seasons at AFL level (16 in 2012 and 14 in 2013), Smith managed just one match in 2014.
 
The tough inside midfielder has been cruelled by injury in the past two seasons, starting with his first torn ACL in July 2013.
 
His attempted comeback from the knee reconstruction was stalled in April last year after salmonella poisoning, and an AC joint injury in round 10 last season, his only game for the year, caused further disruptions.
 
Then just as Smith was getting himself ready for an AFL return, his knee went on him for a second time in a VFL hit-out.
 
The past 19 months have been tough, but Smith, pick No.17 in the 2011 NAB AFL Draft, said he was better prepared to deal with everything that goes with being in rehabilitation this time around.
 
"The first knee I probably struggled with because I was pushy and wanted to do more and I didn't really understand why (I couldn't)," Smith said.
 
"But this time around I've dealt with it a lot better. I've known what I've been in for.
 
"It's a bad thing because you know how long it (the recovery process) takes, but it's a good thing because you can set yourself and you know which areas to work on that can really help you to get back."
 
The whole experience has made Smith realise how important football is in his life.
 
"It probably made it worse that I played a lot of footy in my first couple of years," Smith said.
 
"I had the feeling of playing senior footy and starting to get into feeling like you're part of the team.
 
"It definitely makes you appreciate how good it is to be out there playing AFL and to be fully fit and training."
 
Clay Smith is a $194,000 midfielder in NAB AFL Fantasy this year. Create and fill your AFL Fantasy Classic league by March 2 to win a free AFL Live pass.