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Premiership Tiger closes in on return

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The Tigers are lifting Rioli's training load - AFL,Richmond Tigers,Daniel Rioli
The Tigers are lifting Rioli's training load
I'd be surprised if (Daniel Rioli) wasn't able to play VFL sooner rather than later
Neil Balme

PREMIERSHIP Tiger Daniel Rioli is on the verge of joining in main training and has a cautious eye on a potential VFL return in the coming weeks. 

The Richmond forward, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday, is inching closer to a return to the field following his long recovery from a broken foot.

Rioli has endured two surgeries – the first in the days following the Tigers' Grand Final win and the second this year to remove plates – and a frustratingly slow rehabilitation from the injury.

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While the Tigers are buoyed by his recent progress, they're still not willing to put a specific timeframe on just when Rioli will play as they don't want to put unnecessary pressure on the 43-game goal-kicker.

He is close to joining his teammates in training, however that is more likely to happen after the Tigers' Anzac Day Eve clash with Melbourne given their unconventional timetable this week.

"He's training reasonably hard and he'll start to run with the group really soon so he's not that far away," Richmond football manager Neil Balme told on Monday.

"It's just a matter of getting that body of work into him, which will probably take a few weeks I would think.

"We're really happy with the way he's going.

"No one has put a date on it to be truthful because we don't want him to be working towards those times, we just want him to work to how he's feeling.

"I'd be surprised if he wasn't able to play VFL sooner rather than later I would have thought."

Rioli will train this week on a regular schedule as his teammates enjoy three days off ahead of their next game against the Demons on Tuesday week.

He said last month he would like to be back playing at some level in rounds four or five.

The Tigers had their VFL bye on the weekend and have two more games scheduled before the end of April, which could even see him line up on April 28 against Werribee if all went well over the next two weeks

However, given his lack of pre-season and the tentative approach taken with his recovery, he might be tasked with building fitness in full training before moving to competitive games.

"We're hoping [he'll play] in the next few weeks, but the doctors have made a special effort not to put a date on it because everyone goes to that and we really don't know what it will be," Balme said.

"It just depends on how he is."

The Tigers remarkably have no other players on their official injury list with Dion Prestia making a successful return from hamstring/glute issues on Saturday against the Brisbane Lions.

Prestia pulled up well from his first AFL game for the season and is expected to be available for Anzac Day Eve.