Collingwood midfielder Luke Ball is on target for a strong return in 2013, says football director Geoff Walsh.
The 28-year-old has been out of action since injuring his knee in round three, and has needed a full knee reconstruction. But he hopes to follow in the footsteps of St Kilda's Lenny Hayes, who showed with an outstanding 2012 season that it is possible to make a successful return.
By the time we resume training, he'll be virtually joining in nearly full training.Geoff Walsh
Hayes missed virtually all of 2011 with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, but returned to win St Kilda's best and fairest this year. Walsh says Ball, who has re-signed with the Magpies for another two seasons, is close to being able to train again and is expected to be at the club's high-altitude training camp in Utah.
''He's coming along really well,'' Walsh said. ''He wasn't all that far away from being ready at the end of the season.
"By the time we resume training, he'll be virtually joining in nearly full training.''
Lachlan Keeffe is the other Collingwood player battling back from a torn ACL and Walsh says medical staff have been pleased with his progress.
"He would be somewhere towards the back end of the pre-season, I would think, in terms of him being up and going in full training,'' Walsh said. ''It's too far away and there's too much water to go under the bridge before we can work out when he would start playing again.''
Meanwhile, Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge will have surgery this week to fix a knee problem. Hodge suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury in round six against St Kilda and missed the next 10 games. He has been carrying the problem since returning to action, but Hawks football manager Mark Evans believes he will be running before Christmas.
"It needs some stabilization and they'll have a look at it while they're in there and do a bit of a clean-out," said Evans.
"He should be running before the end of the year, so he'll just need to take it a little bit slowly. We don't start pre-season until late November, so he'll just be a few weeks behind the rest of the group.
"He's fine, but the knee's not quite as stable as it could be."
Collingwood are 8.50 to win the 2013 Grand Final while Hawthorn are at 4.25.
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