CARLTON will put Charlie Curnow through a mini pre-season over the next month, with the Blues in the latter stages of a carefully created plan that will hopefully see the star forward return to AFL action later this year.
Curnow has been ramping up his training loads recently as he gears towards a return from more than two full years on the sidelines with a series of debilitating knee injuries, with the next period believed to be critical to his chances of a 2021 comeback.
While he is not yet back in full training, Curnow resumed running and agility work in April and is doing select drills with the main group, with the Blues still of the belief that he will play senior footy later this season.
However, in order to do so, the precociously talented 24-year-old will need to complete a gradual increase in training loads over the next four weeks before getting through a series of VFL hitouts throughout late-July and August.
Should he progress without any issues, it's then hoped that Curnow will return for the last handful of Carlton's home and away matches later this season and mark his first senior appearances since hurting his troublesome right knee in June 2019.
The plan, meticulously devised by the club's high-performance boss Andrew Russell, will hopefully end more than two seasons of frustration for the high-flying Geelong Falcons product.
Once viewed as one of the League's most promising young talents, Curnow hasn't played a full AFL game since booting seven goals against the Western Bulldogs in what was then David Teague's second game in charge of the club.
He missed the remaining eight matches of the 2019 campaign after hurting his medial ligament against Fremantle the following week, before dislocating his right knee playing basketball with teammates in the October of that year.
Curnow fractured the same kneecap after slipping on tiles the following November, then suffered a hairline stress response to the knee in April last year that would rule him out for the entire 2020 season.
His hopes of making a long-awaited comeback early this year were also dashed by a stress injury to the patella of his right knee last November, delaying his return until the second half of this season.
The supremely athletic Curnow kicked 77 goals from his first 58 games with the Blues, having been recruited to the club with pick No.12 in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft. It earned him a lucrative four-year deal in 2018, taking him through until the end of the 2023 season.
However, despite being drafted alongside Coleman Medal leader and the recently re-signed Harry McKay – who has kicked 38 goals from his first 12 games this season – the pair have played just 23 of a possible 117 matches together.