COLLINGWOOD captain Scott Pendlebury has returned to training after fracturing his lower leg during a pre-season session at the start of December.

The 34-year-old had a plate inserted in his left leg to repair a hairline fracture after copping a knock in a drill at training.

Pendlebury missed the final four games of the 2021 campaign after breaking his leg in a similar place against Port Adelaide in July.

The six-time AFL All-Australian reported back for training after the Christmas break last Monday and has seamlessly returned to the main group in the four main sessions to start the new year.

It is understood that Pendlebury won’t do everything over the second half of the pre-season, with new high new performance manager Jarrod Wade implementing a program that will reduce the amount of running he completes to limit the possibility of further issues with his leg.

After a short burst of speculation and external commentary regarding his future last August, Pendlebury inked a two-year contract extension in October that will see him remain at the club until at least the end of 2023. 

Collingwood is expected to announce its leadership group for 2022 in the coming weeks with former premiership skipper and current GM of performance and operations, Nick Maxwell, to be heavily involved in the process. 

While Pendlebury could remain in charge under new senior coach Craig McRae, the Pies may look to appoint a new skipper. 

Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury talks with Taylor Adams and Will Hoskin-Elliott at training in August 2021. Picture: Getty Images

There is a feeling inside the club that a change isn’t completely necessary given Pendlebury’s durability – he has averaged 20.9 appearances per season across his career – and leadership, but the timing might be right given the drastic overhaul across the football department and administration in the past 12 months.

Taylor Adams is in a strong position to assume the responsibility after emerging as not just one of Collingwood’s most influential players in recent years, but also one of the best leaders at the club.

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Jeremy Howe and Steele Sidebottom also led the Magpies in Pendlebury’s absence during the final month of last season, while star duo Darcy Moore and Brodie Grundy were also part of the leadership group in 2021, along with Jordan Roughead.

Moore has also returned to full training after missing the second half of last season with an injury to the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. 

Darcy Moore kicks the ball during a Collingwood training session on December 13, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

The 2020 All-Australian defender was producing another eye-catching season when his season ended in the dying minutes of Collingwood’s memorable win over eventual premiers Melbourne in round 13. 

The 25-year-old completed the full program on Monday after gradually building up his load over the first month of the summer and is set to play in the AAMI Community Series ahead of a round one return against St Kilda in 59 sleeps.

With gun defender Brayden Maynard turning his back on free agency to sign a three-year extension just before Christmas, Moore is the next signature Collingwood's general manager of football, Graham Wright, will focus on in the early stages of 2022. 

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The Magpies, just like almost every club in the eastern states, have been hit hard by the latest wave of positive COVID cases sweeping across Melbourne, with more than 10 players missing each session so far this year.

It has forced the club to invite VFL listed players to train with the main group to allow for full ground training drills which could become more common in the next two months as match simulation sessions increase in length and intensity.