A KNEE setback for Nic Newman could rule the defender out for the beginning of the season, but Tom De Koning is ahead of schedule following his back injury.

After a largely faultless pre-season in his return from a ruptured patella tendon, Carlton will take a cautious approach with Newman with the season just over three weeks away.

Director of High Performance Andrew Russell said the injury itself wasn’t to do with the tendon which ruled out his 2020 season, but rather inflammation behind the kneecap.

“‘Newy’ was going really well with his knee: he got back into the full ball program and was doing game play,” Russell said.

04:29 Mins
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Injury Update | 22 February

Director of High Performance, Andrew Russell, provides an update on Carlton's AFL injury list.

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“His patella tendon looks really good, which is the injury he had last year, but the back of the kneecap is a bit inflamed at the moment. We’re still deciding what that means and how much training he’s going to miss.

“We need a bit more information to find out how long: it will settle down and he will be playing footy, but it probably won’t be at the start of the season.”

After it was previously announced that De Koning wouldn’t be available in the early rounds of the home-and-away year, the ruckman could be back running in the next week.

Citing the need to be cautious with any nature of back injury, Russell said the Blues had been pleased with De Koning’s progress in recent weeks.

“He had very low-grade bone stress in his spine. The next day, he had no pain and hasn’t had any pain in his back whatsoever: he feels completely normal,” he said.

“We actually expect him to get back running this week which is great — it settled better than we thought it would, it’s a pretty low-grade injury.

“How quickly he progresses will depend on how good he feels but at this stage, we’ll be seeing him early in the season I would think.”

Russell ruled out Eddie Betts (calf), Levi Casboult (knee) and Mitch McGovern (hamstring) for this Thursday’s practice match against Essendon, but all remained on track for Round 1 availability.

He said the call would be made in the next week about their availability for the AAMI Community Series clash with St Kilda next Thursday. 

Player Injury  
Eddie Betts Calf "He's back in the ball program. We'll assess whether he's done enough for the St Kilda game."
Levi Casboult Knee "He jarred his knee, which is an old injury he's had for a long time. He won't play against Essendon."
Patrick Cripps Shoulder Available for selection.
Charlie Curnow Knee On track for return in second half of 2021. 
Tom De Koning Back "He hasn't had any pain in his back whatsoever. We expect him to get back running this week." 
Sam Docherty Ankle Available for selection.
Brodie Kemp  Foot "As we said at the start, we expect it to be a three-month plus injury. That's still the expected timeframe."
Caleb Marchbank Calf "He's doing some hard running conditioning and controlled footy stuff. The plan is to get him into the ball program in the next week or two." Unavailable for Round 1.
Mitch McGovern Hamstring "He won't play this week, we'll assess if he plays against the Saints or aim for Round 1. He's had an excellent preparation." 
Nic Newman Knee "The back of the kneecap is a bit inflamed at the moment. He'll be playing footy, but probably not at the start of the season."
Sam Philp Hip/Groin "He's on track: he's a stronger, more powerful athlete. He'll be available for selection early in the season."