Jarrad Waite will make his long-awaited return to the playing field this weekend when he lines up for Carlton's VFL affiliate Northern Blues.
Blues coach Mick Malthouse said the star forward, who hasn’t played a game this season due to a calf complaint, would "play as much as he can" against Port Melbourne at Preston City Oval from 2pm on Sunday.
Malthouse told the media at Visy Park on Thursday that Waite could spend one or two weeks in the VFL before returning to the senior side, depending on how his body responds to the workload.
Until he was sidelined in February, the injury-prone 30-year-old had enjoyed his best pre-season in up to five years.
In recent weeks he has embarked on a "mini-pre-season" to condition him for a playing return.
"It's been a long haul, a long wait, so we will see how he pulls up (and) go from there," Malthouse said.
"He's trained very well over the last couple of weeks. The old saying, 'When they're ready, give them another week.'"
The coach revealed Waite had been reluctant to take a conservative approach to his recovery.
"He's like any player – (he) doesn’t really want to have 'patience' listed next to his name; he just wants to get out there," he said.
"Unfortunately, he's had to be reasonably patient over that period because the leg just didn’t respond early on. It has in the last month.
"He's had to do a mini-pre-season … He could have been playing two weeks ago had he been able to perhaps get out there and run."
Malthouse isn’t setting high expectations on Waite from a performance perspective just yet, stressing the importance for Waite and the Blues to better understand his body and finally "get it right".
"It's not a matter of how many goals he kicks or how many footballs he touches, it's a matter of getting through, understanding his body, which he does, (and) us understanding that he can get through a game of football," he said.
"The system is: get it right. Let's not be rushed into anything regardless of the result this weekend or who we play the following weekend."
A critical inclusion for the Blues' AFL side in the twilight clash with the Adelaide Crows at the MCG on Saturday is small forward Eddie Betts, who returns after overcoming a broken jaw suffered in round one.
"He's a very valued player, has enormous impact with the player group – they all love him – and he just loves playing footy, so it's very good," Malthouse enthused.
The coach also lavished praise on Crows spearhead Taylor Walker, making qualified comparisons to goalkicking legends Tony Lockett and Jason Dunstall.
"He reminds me of a modern-day version of a (Tony) Lockett and (Jason) Dunstall … They are out-and-out champions and he's got a lot of time to prove that, but he's only a young bloke, he's powerful, he's not six-foot-six, he's the traditional front-end player that's got great strength, great kicking power, plays for his teammates and kicks goals," he said.
"He is as close to those type of players physically any player in the competition.
"And that's not taking anything away from Travis Cloke, who is a different sort of player (and) is probably the best centre half-forward."
Walker has tallied 9.5 from four games this season after slotting a career-best 63 majors from 19 outings last year.
Michael Jamison is certain to have first crack at Walker. Jamison has been in terrific form, taking the points against the likes of Richmond's Jack Riewoldt, Collingwood's Travis Cloke and West Coast's Josh Kennedy already this season.