Daniel Menzel’s fairytale return to the AFL might not come on Saturday but Geelong coach Chris Scott says it will certainly be this season.
After four seasons out of the AFL and an incredible four major knee surgeries, Menzel’s comeback has been a long time coming.
The 23-year-old has put together six matches in the VFL and has built a case to play on Saturday night against St Kilda.
But Scott said he’d rather be too careful with the comeback kid than see him go through another heartbreaking reconstruction.
“We could only make a mistake by breaking him back too quickly,” Scott said.
“In terms of the measures and the objective data, he’s ticked the boxes – he’s available to play.
“But we’ve always been comfortable being a little bit slow with his return to AFL football.”
If Menzel is not selected for the AFL fixture with the Saints, he’s likely to be rested all weekend and possibly thrown into Friday night football the following week in round 22 against Collingwood.
Geelong’s VFL match is on Sunday against Sandringham and Scott doesn’t want to push Menzel to play twice inside six days.
While he doesn’t know when the comeback will come, Scott says it will happen in 2015.
“We’re very confident that he’ll play AFL football before the end of the season … I’m more confident of that than I’ve ever been.”
Menzel’s first major knee injury came in his last AFL game, a qualifying final win against Hawthorn in 2011.
Since then, his left knee has gone three times.
It’s only now that the 23-year-old has returned to the frame for an AFL return.
Scott said despite Menzel’s journey, he wasn’t desperate to get it over with on Saturday.
“He’s very confident in his ability for good reason and he feels like he’s ready to play,” he said.
“He’s shared our view all along that it’s prudent to take our time … he’s got his eyes firmly focused on the big picture.
“It’s an unbelievable story – I think we’re all looking forward to seeing the documentary.”
When Menzel does return, it will be on merit.
With a host of premiership-winners on the Cats’ list rumoured to be considering nearing the end of their storied careers, Scott said they weren’t in the side just to farewell fans.
“Our experienced players aren’t in the side because we’re sentimentalists,” he said.
“They’re in the team because we think it’s the best thing for this season.
“We have three games to go in the home-and-away season and we need to do the right thing by the team to give us the best chance of playing finals.”