CARLTON co-captain Sam Docherty has credited a 'pre, pre-season' conducted with the club's medical staff for enabling him to return to training on time following an ACL injury.
Docherty has been working alongside new recruit Will Setterfield over the off-season, with both players hopeful of returning from respective knee injuries for round one next year.
The pair linked up just days after Setterfield arrived at Ikon Park, with Carlton's new skipper sacrificing a month of his summer holidays to be fit for the first pre-season session.
Docherty has also been working closely with former Sydney defender Nic Newman, giving him confidence that Carlton's new arrivals will have a big impact in 2019.
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"I did a lot of work with Setterfield over the break," Docherty said.
"As soon as he got picked up, we spent three or four days a week together. We're both going through knees, but he's going really well. He's fitting into the program and fitting in with all of the boys really well.
"I've also spent a few sessions with Newman and I can see him slotting into the team – I'm pretty rapt I've got another half-back that I can run around with.
"They're all ripping lads. They've got a lot of talent … so it's exciting times. The start of pre-season always brings optimism and you can see the list developing and the team developing. You can see success and adding good players is always a big part of that."
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Docherty missed the club's 2018 campaign after rupturing his ACL in November last year. It proved a devastating blow for the Blues, who won just two games all season.
Speaking on Wednesday, the 25-year-old revealed he had targeted a return late last season, but took a cautious approach in order to be fit and firing for a full return next year.
"We had a bit of a chase towards the end of the year," Docherty said.
"I didn't rule out playing at the end of last season, which got me through the year – having that hope that I could make it late in the year.
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"I put myself in a position to play and I was probably ready to play, but we just made the decision that we may as well take out all of the risk and re-group for pre-season.
"I wanted to have a full off-season to get my fitness ready for day one of pre-season. Now I'm ready to hit round one and I'm starting pre-season like the rest of the boys.
"I've got a good base level of fitness and I'm going to get a full three or four months in before round one, so I'll be ready to go."
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Named as an All-Australian defender in 2017, Docherty was destined for a more substantial midfield role prior to his ACL injury.
While that may still be on the cards going into next year, the club's skipper doesn't believe it will be a full-time role any time soon.
"I wouldn't say that I'll be playing as a straight-out midfielder," Docherty said
"Much as I did in that 2017 year, I think I played about 20 per cent midfield per game. Just expanding on that role will be part of it.
"But the majority of where I play will be in the backline. That's where I'm suited to play and that's where the team probably needs me to play.
"Most of the time I'll be down back, but I think you see that sort of Shaun Burgoyne role where you can pop in and out – that's probably what I'm looking at."