Collingwood star Nick Daicos has started running for the first time after his knee injury as he builds towards a return during the AFL finals.
But the young gun's hotly-anticipated return from the hairline fracture in his right knee sustained in round 21 still appears unlikely to be in Thursday night's qualifying final against Melbourne.
Daicos did some run-throughs away from Collingwood's main training group on Sunday, gradually picking up some speed.
"It's going to be the story until he gets back, isn't it?" veteran midfielder Scott Pendlebury told reporters.
"Today was his first running session. He's been doing some gymnastic stuff and now he's running.
"I sort of stir him up all the time. I said 'you look really good - so, what one more session and you're right to go Thursday?'
"But yeah it's between the docs and the fitness guys, but I know when you go through that sort of stuff, it's just great to be back outside running, part of it.
"Yeah, he won't be too far."
Pendlebury was confident Daicos could quickly hit his straps when he did return.
"I don't think it will be that big of a hill to climb for him. I think they'll get the work into him," he said.
"I always liken it to the start of the season. It's the start of the year again, and he performed pretty well in round one and two - he performed well every week, didn't he?
"He's a natural, his strength's his running power, it won't take him long to get his legs back and then he'll be away."
If minor premiers Collingwood beat Melbourne, they will earn another week off before the preliminary final, which would take further pressure off Daicos to quickly return.
The Magpies overcame a late-season form wobble to easily account for Essendon in round 24 and steady ahead of finals.
"We performed really well, the last game. Obviously we had a little bit of a period there where we needed to fix a few things and address that," Pendlebury said.
"But as we know, it's a different season now, the pressure goes up in games and we're just really looking forward to Thursday night.
"We feel like our game's in good shape and our body of work across the season will probably say that as well.
"I'm really confident that the body of work we've done, it stands up in big games."
Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom are the only players left from Collingwood's last premiership team in 2010.
"It sort of happened pretty quickly and then ... since that period, obviously played in another couple of grand finals since then, and lost them and you realise how hard they are to actually win," Pendlebury said.
"We just want to try and make the most of it, have fun while we're still going around and I feel like the last couple of years we've really enjoyed ourselves."