DYLAN Roberton will use the next three weeks of match practice to make a brave bid for a round one call up, having mentally moved on from the heart scare that threatened more than just his career.
The 28-year-old father of three hasn't played competitive football since his internal defibrillator went off in a pre-season game last year, and last ran out for premiership points in round four, 2018.
While a corked knee will stop Roberton from playing in the Saints' first Marsh Community Series match on Thursday night at Moorabbin, he's set to play in their bushfire relief fundraising clash with Hawthorn on February 28, and then against Collingwood on March 8.
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Despite not playing for nearly two years, he's determined to return with purpose and recapturing his 2017 Virgin Australia AFL All Australian squad form is firmly on his agenda.
"I wouldn't want to come back if I was just making up the numbers," Roberton said on Wednesday, after being announced as a member of the Saints' six-man leadership team.
"I still think while I've missed a lot of footy, it hasn't changed that much.
"It's all I've been thinking about for a while so to get back and be this close to the start of the season is really exciting and makes the last couple of years feel like they haven't happened."
Roberton stepped down from the leadership group early last season after his heart condition flared for the second time and he was ruled out for the year.
He travelled to the US to speak to top cardiologists in a bid to stop his heart rate racing to dangerous levels, with it once being recorded at a frightening 300 beats per minute.
He then spent the rest of the year helping out the coaching team.
Roberton admitted last year's scare, 11 months after the problem was first identified when he dramatically collapsed behind play in a game against Geelong, made him wonder if he'd played his last game.
"Initially, you probably think it will be hard to get back," he said.
"But after the dust settles and you realise this is what you want to do and you want to exhaust every avenue and find out what you can, that sort of gives you that little bit of purpose to get back.
"It's strange, the lessons probably come a bit later because you're sort of just dealing with the things as they're thrown to you, so you just go through them.
"As you step back and you realise what you've gone through, you probably think you've done it a bit tough and you can get through a fair bit of things.
"I suppose I've gone through a bit, but I'm pretty happy with the way I've handled it."
Roberton was asked by Saints captain Jarryn Geary if he was sure he wanted to be in the leadership group, or if he wanted to solely focus on getting back to his best.
But Roberton, who meets his cardiologist "every couple of months", was determined to lead on the field and "not just behind the scenes" like in 2019.
Geary, appointed skipper for the fourth season, said Roberton's situation had reminded the team that life was bigger than football.
"When that person has three kids and a partner at home that he needs to support and care for, not just now but in the future, that puts it in perspective as well," Geary said.
"He's a family man and a young father of three kids so when you think about that, footy becomes secondary.
"He doesn't let too many people worry about him but there were times when you were worried about where it was heading for him.
"We're not sure how he's going to go, he's been out for a couple of years and I'm sure he'll get back to the form he showed then but we've got to be a little bit patient and give him a chance to get back to playing his best footy.
"Just to see him back out there will be a massive uplift for us."