SIMON Black is all but assured of making his long-awaited return for the Brisbane Lions on Saturday.
The champion midfielder had off-season knee surgery and has not played a senior match in 2013, but coach Michael Voss says Black is ready to go after playing three matches for the Lions reserves.
Black just needed to get through Wednesday's main training session and pull up well to be selected to play West Coast at the Gabba on Saturday.
"All things being equal, you'd expect him to play," Voss said.
The Lions coach made no apologies for taking his time with re-introducing Black, despite the team's 2-4 start to the season.
"We have to appreciate he hasn't completed a lot of the pre-season, so he's taken a lot of time to get going," Voss said.
"As part of his schedule he's had to play a couple of games … it's more just match fitness for him.
"We can't pull the trigger all guns blazing. He's had to work his way back into form and really show what Simon Black can do."
Black's return would be a welcome sight to a Lions midfield that was punished in the first quarter against the Sydney Swans last Sunday.
The Lions trailed by 40 points at quarter-time, and despite fighting valiantly for the final three terms, were never in the contest as they went down by 60 points.
Voss said the team's review focused almost solely on the opening quarter, which has cost his side in three of the opening six rounds.
While he said it was the whole team's responsibility to lift, it started in the midfield.
"First and foremost it's got to start with getting our hands on it around the middle of the ground and then being prepared to run when it's our turn.
"That's something we need to do from the first siren."
Voss said he expected similar intensity from a West Coast outfit that is slowly starting to resemble its best after injury-interrupted opening month. Like the Lions, the Eagles have won just two of their first six games, but showed ominous form in dismissing the Western Bulldogs by 70 points last Sunday at Patersons Stadium.
Michael Whiting covers Brisbane Lions news for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_mikewhiting