MELBOURNE fans will have to wait at least a month to see Jesse Hogan at AFL level, with the young forward hoping to play VFL football in "two or three weeks".
Hogan suffered a nasty back injury during the Demons' final NAB Challenge match against Geelong in Alice Springs on February 28.
The 19-year-old had 13 touches and kicked a goal but copped a knee to the back that led to an extended period on the sidelines.
The exciting power forward began running on Monday and told the Melbourne website that he was hopeful of returning within three weeks.
"I'm looking at two or three weeks training and then (coming) back to the VFL," Hogan said.
"I did my first session yesterday (Monday) and I'll run again tomorrow (Wednesday) and Friday and then progress from there.
"I've started to do weights and do more things around the club, so it's coming along well."
Hogan - who 39 booted goals from 15 VFL matches last year on the way to winning Casey's best and fairest award - said the unique nature of the injury meant his rehabilitation has been a slow process.
"I've had to compensate for it – there's been a bit of swelling and bruising, so all of the muscles around it have started to contract. It was like a stress fracture, but not exactly a stress fracture," Hogan said.
"You can’t really do a lot and I've been restricted on the bike and a lot of core activities. Other than that, you can't really do a lot of weights (and I couldn't) do any running until it settles down.
"It's a bit frustrating, but I'm getting there now, so I'm sweet."
The prospect of Hogan returning sooner rather than later is welcome news for the Demons, who have struggled badly this year without their first-choice key forwards.
Chris Dawes is a chance to return this week after missing all of the NAB Challenge and the first three rounds due to a persistent calf injury.
"I've tried to ignore it and I can only do what I can do – I can only do my best," Hogan said.
"As long as I’m trying my hardest that's all I can do.”