The Crows couldn't be better placed to launch their NAB Cup defence, with close to the entire squad in full training. Sam Shaw and Nick Joyce are the only two players restricted from full training, Shaw due to knee tendonitis and Joyce with a bit of groin soreness. Both are expected to return to the main group soon, Joyce by the end of next week. Jared Petrenko has taken it easy with full contact as he recovers from a shoulder reconstruction, but other than that Adelaide is in impeccable shape.
The Lions will have an almost full strength squad to choose from during the NAB Cup. Injured trio Matthew Leuenberger (Achilles), Brent Staker (knee) and Mitch Golby (foot) have been training strongly since the New Year and will all be available for selection. Ryan Harwood rolled his ankle recently but will be fine, and the only minor concern is the recovery from a pre-Christmas knee clean-up for Brownlow medallist Simon Black. The 33-year-old is still on a modified program and will be nursed through the pre-season competition but is still likely to see some action.
This time last year the Blues were the walking wounded, but now they boast one of the healthiest playing lists in the AFL. The only Blue who has been ruled out of the NAB Cup is Andrew McInnes, who is still a few months away from playing after undergoing a knee reconstruction. However, the Blues aren’t without their niggles, with big guns Chris Judd (hamstring) and Jarrad Waite (calf), along with prized draftee Troy Menzel (hip) sidelined for up to two weeks each. Rested from Wednesday's intraclub match were frontliners Marc Murphy, Michael Jamison, Heath Scotland, Kade Simpson, Matt Kreuzer and Lachie Henderson, but the majority are expected to play in next Friday's in-house game.
Apart from a couple of players with long-term injuries, the Magpies have had a pre-season relatively free of injury. Dale Thomas remains on the sidelines after ankle surgery early in the pre-season and is no certainty to play round one. Luke Ball and Lachlan Keefe's return from respective knee reconstructions remains on track but the club will not rush them back. Clinton Young made a surprise return in Friday's intraclub match after post-season foot surgery and looked promising. Andrew Krakouer and Brent Macaffer returned late last year from knee reconstructions and have had solid pre-seasons.
The Bombers were tracking well before their horror week, which actually started with a knee injury to skipper Jobe Watson. He is set to miss the start of the NAB Cup with a grade one lateral strain of the ligament but should be back for Essendon's second NAB Cup game at the start of March. Jake Melksham broke his hand at training on Friday and will miss two or three weeks. Star midfielder David Zaharakis is also on the comeback trail after a slight quad strain but is expected to play some part in the NAB Cup, as is Scott Gumbleton, whose comeback from a hamstring strain has been slightly delayed. The Bombers appear set to field a pretty experienced team in the pre-season competition, mainly because the club's home and away season starts a week earlier than most on March 22 against Adelaide at AAMI Stadium. Senior players will be keen to get in a few games early in the NAB Cup before their 2013 campaign gets underway.
Captain Matthew Pavlich, who is recovering from a back operation, has trained away from the main group and is aiming to play one NAB Cup match. Club champion Ryan Crowley has also been held out of full training as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle, although his running program has been strong. Key midfielder David Mundy suffered a minor ankle injury late in January and was sidelined briefly, but he has since returned to full training. Lachie Neale suffered signs of heat stroke during a demanding late-January session and has since been sidelined intermittently. After a slow build-up following shoulder surgery, midfielder Stephen Hill is now in full training and should be ready for Fremantle's opening NAB Cup matches. Anthony Morabito suffered the heartbreak of a third serious knee injury and will be aiming for a mid-season return after undergoing LARS surgery.
The Cats' experienced players are mostly fighting fit. Star midfielders Jimmy Bartel (foot) and James Kelly (hips) were both sidelined during the early part of the club's pre-season, but they have been impressive contributors during the recent competitive training sessions against North Melbourne. Of the club's recruits, Josh Caddy has recovered from the shoulder surgery he had last September, while Jared Rivers has done all that has been asked of him on the track. However, ruckman Hamish McIntosh remains on a restricted program after having LARS surgery on his troublesome right knee last August. Two talented youngsters, Jed Bews and George Burbury, are both set to miss games early in the season after suffering foot problems.
With only vice-captain Nathan Bock (leg) missing pre-season work from the Suns' automatic selections, watch for the Gold Coast to field strong teams during the NAB Cup with the hope of taking some momentum into the premiership season. Bock is back running following his broken leg last May, but is not expected to be available until early in the season. Captain Gary Ablett has been hampered by back and calf problems but is training and will see some pre-season action, while Michael Rischitelli has also resumed near-to full training but is racing the clock for pre-season. Seb Tape (knee reconstruction) and Liam Patrick (hamstring) are recovering well but still a way off.
Greater Western Sydney
Veteran Chad Cornes, who is preparing for his 15th AFLseason, had surgery to remove a cyst on his right knee on January 30, ruling him out for eight to 10 weeks. Irishman Setanta O'hAilpin is also working through his knee reconstruction. While he has been ahead of schedule, O'hAilpin isn't training with the main group and won't feature in the NAB Cup. Midfielder Dom Tyson ruptured his posterior cruciate ligament in a training incident in December and will be sidelined until May. Rookie-listed Joe Redfern will also sit out the NAB Cup due to bone bruising. But some exciting youngsters, including Lachie Whitfield, Jono O'Rourke and Lachie Plowman, will be on show in the pre-season competition.
Captain Luke Hodge and veteran small forward Michael Osborne, both on the comeback from knee surgery, are hoping to take part in the NAB Cup. Lance Franklin has had a minor setback, with a burst cyst behind his knee ruling him out of Friday night's Indigenous All Stars clash. The injury shouldn't affect his preparation for the season. Jordan Lewis has been wearing a wrist guard at training after post-season surgery, while Shaun Burgoyne continues to recover from an ankle injury. Brendan Whitecross is making good progress in his rehabilitation after an anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, but he won't be seen on field until later in the season.
Skipper Jack Trengove (ankle), forward Mitch Clark (foot) and young ruckman Max Gawn (hamstring) are three Demons you can definitely draw a line through for the NAB Cup. The Demons play Richmond and North Melbourne on February 22 at Etihad Stadium. They've been drawn to play in the first two matches of the evening, therefore avoiding the hour-long break in the middle. Football manager Josh Mahoney anticipates that most players on the Melbourne list, including several draftees, will get a run over the four-week period. Mahoney nominated defender Tom McDonald and running defender Dan Nicholson as the standouts of the pre-season. Melbourne will have a match simulation session on Friday ahead of the NAB Cup.
North's list is approaching full health ahead of the NAB Cup, with vice-captain Jack Ziebell almost ready to resume full training after minor knee surgery in January. Star midfielder Daniel Wells looks to be over his achilles problems, having impressed in North's match-practice drills against Geelong and is set to play some NAB Cup games. Forward Leigh Adams and recruits Taylor Garner, Taylor Hine and Mitch Wilkins all had post-season shoulder surgery, but have resumed all training bar full-contact drills.
Port Adelaide's injury list is looking much healthier than it did for much of season 2012, but the Power still have several players on the mend. John Butcher (hip) and Brent Renouf (knee) are both expected to play late in the NAB Cup, while Robbie Gray won't return until April as he recovers from a knee reconstruction. Dom Cassisi suffered a minor calf strain, but is expected back in the main group within the next week or so. Captain Travis Boak also missed Friday night's internal trial with some knee soreness, but it wasn't serious. Cameron Hitchcock will miss at least another few weeks after he had surgery to fix plantar fasciitis - inflammation of the tissue on the bottom of his foot.
At this stage, the only Tiger likely to be unavailable in round one is Nathan Foley (achilles), although he has progressed to running on the track. With players such as Jack Riewoldt (hip), Troy Chaplin (knee) and Ivan Maric (groin) on the cusp of joining in all of training, and Jake King (knee) and Dylan Grimes (hamstring) progressing well and running unimpeded, the Tigers' NAB Cup squad is likely to be rotated. With up to eight new Tigers to be tried against the Indigenous All Stars, expect them to use a mix of youth and experience across the pre-season competition.
The Saints looked in good shape during their intraclub match at Seaford on Saturday. Of major concern would be Ben Mcevoy, who left the field early and did not return. However, coach Scott Watters said his departure was intended and he will be fine when the real stuff starts. Lenny Hayes is tracking well after heart surgery and will play a big role in the club's 2013 campaign. Hayes was rested alongside skipper Nick Riewoldt, and Sean Dempster, Rhys Stanley and Adam Schneider on Saturday.
Co-captain Adam Goodes has been the main absentee from training due to the partial posterior cruciate ligament tear he suffered in the Grand Final. He has been gradually increasing his workload, taking part in skills sessions last week as he sets his sights on round one of the AFL season. He is intending to play one or two NAB Cup games ahead of the season-opener. Nick Smith (knee) and Marty Mattner (hip) are tracking similarly to Goodes and are slated to re-join the main group in the coming weeks. Some of the club's latest draftees, including Tim Membrey, Dean Towers and Harry Marsh, have been adjusting to life with the Swans well and will get an opportunity to strut their stuff in round one of the NAB Cup.
All Australian ruckman Nic Naitanui will miss the entire NAB Cup as he recovers from groin surgery. The young star has trained under the close eye of Eagles fitness staff this pre-season, recently moving into skills work and ramping up his running. Vice-captain Beau Waters has also been carefully managed after hip surgery, as has star midfielder Daniel Kerr, who had a knee arthroscopy in December. Recruit Brant Colledge (hip) has barely been sighted, while Brad Dick (knee) will likely miss the Eagles' opening NAB Cup matches. With Mark LeCras and Josh Kennedy both firing, West Coast plans to field a strong NAB Cup team from the opening round.
The Western Bulldogs are likely to have just one player unavailable for Friday night's clashes against Collingwood and Essendon. Draftee Nathan Hrovat picked up a minor quad injury at training recently and the club is set to err on the side of caution this week with the 18 year old. Despite a full complement of senior players to choose from, the Dogs are set to unleash a host of youngsters throughout the pre-season competition. 2012 recruits Jake Stringer, Jack Macrae, Josh Prudden and father-son selection Lachie Hunter have all been earmarked to feature prominently in Brendan McCartney's plans.