RICHMOND defender Dylan Grimes has declared he wants to be a Tiger for life as he prepares to make his anticipated return from a serious foot injury this weekend.
Sidelined since round six after suffering a stress fracture in his foot, Grimes will play half a game with the Coburg VFL reserves on Sunday.
The 22-year-old, who suffered long-term hamstring injuries in 2011 and 2012, said the past few months on the sidelines had been the hardest thing he'd dealt with in football.
The setback has not derailed plans to keep the talented backman at Punt Road beyond this season, however, with the club in ongoing talks with Grimes's management.
"We have been in negotiation but I don't think there's any question of where I'm going to play the rest of my career," Grimes told AFL.com.au
"I'd love to be a one-club player and Richmond have given me more than I could ever hope for from an AFL club.
"I'm ecstatic to be part of the playing group and the leadership group, so I won't be going anywhere at all."
Grimes is scheduled to play a full game at VFL level next week, with a view to being available for senior selection against the Brisbane Lions in round 20.
He said he hadn't set any goals around playing at AFL level as the Tigers close in on their first finals appearance since 2001.
"I'd love to be able to play a part in the Richmond journey towards the latter part of this season, but it's very much governed by the coaches' thinking," he said.
"The positive sitting on the sidelines was seeing the success we were having and knowing there was a possibility I could come back towards the latter part of the season.
"That kept me going and it's been great to see the development from the stands.
"I'm really hoping to be involved in some of that development in the last few games."
Recruited in the 2010 NAB AFL Pre-Season Draft, Grimes has played 22 games in a promising but injury-riddled start to his career.
After undergoing hamstring surgery at the end of 2012, he had set himself to play a full season this year, compounding his disappointment when the foot injury was discovered in May.
"Every time I've been injured I've felt like I'd just found my feet at AFL level and this was another case like that," he said.
"I felt like my match fitness was just coming back, I was feeling confident out on the field and then sure enough I got injured again.
"I'd gone from playing one week to not being able to walk around the house. It was really hard to deal with."
Grimes questioned whether he would get confidence back in his body and whether he would ever play a full season.
However, his return has gathered momentum over the past two weeks and the young leader is positive about what the future holds.
"You just keep getting each session under your belt and then all of a sudden you're back where I am now, just about to come back for my first game," he said.
"As soon as you're back playing it's out of your mind and all you're concentrating on is footy. Things couldn't be better now."
Nathan Schmook is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter @AFL_Nathan