CARLTON defender Sam Docherty isn’t ruling out an end of season return, despite undergoing a knee reconstruction in late November.
The 2017 All-Australian has already begun running and is confident his body can recover in time for a late season burst in August, which would be nine months post-surgery.
Docherty — who was named in Carlton’s leadership group despite the injury — travelled to America last month, visiting a variety of universities to improve his skill set both on and off the field.
His overseas sojourn marked an important step in his recovery.
“My first run was the week before I headed off to the US,” Docherty told SEN.
“That was the main marker for me to get over there with, to be able to run over here and make sure I’m running at a half decent technique that I could go and do my rehab over there comfortably.
“I’m probably week three or four of that. Timelines with the knee, it’s just how it progresses. If I’m lucky and have no setbacks, (I’ll be) somewhere around that nine-month mark.
“Again it’s sort of dependent on when my running progresses to more intensity and more volume, how it copes with that, and then we’ll just keep reassessing from there.”
Docherty ruptured his ACL at training in November in an incident the 24-year-old described as “innocuous”.
“I was just running, and tried to plant my left foot on the ground and change directions, and for whatever reason, whether it was going to go anyway, or just the angle my knee was on, popped,” Docherty said.
“It’s one of those things that as an athlete it’s hard to cop when your season just gets thrown under the bus, but it also gave me an opportunity to really develop and grow outside of football, develop my leadership.
“It’s been a really good pre-season for me. I’ve really been involved in the club and looking forward to the season ahead.”
While Carlton was the worst offensive team in 2017, Docherty suggested great gains had been made in the off-season, with the likes of young gun Charlie Curnow impressing.
And with a number of the club’s emerging players entering their third and fourth seasons, Docherty said the time was ripe for a challenge up the ladder.
“I think the fact we’re growing as a group in terms of age, and just being around the club, the offensive layers we’ve added to our game this year, we’ve put in a fair bit of work,” Docherty said.
“I think we’ve seen a bit of that growth in the two JLT games we’ve played. We’ve got the talent at the footy club — and that’s what makes me excited as a senior player at this footy club — that we’ve got experienced young talent with some games under their belt. I’m talking the likes of (Jacob) Weitering, (Caleb) Marchbank, Curnow.
“It’s really unknown and untapped, what this group can do when some players get into some form.”