There is light at the end of the tunnel for a number of injured GWS Giants stars as they seek to resurrect their 2022 fortunes.
Callan Ward and Lachie Whitfield are on track to return for the Giants’ Sunday afternoon date with North Melbourne as Jacob Hopper also edges closer to finally playing again.
The Kangaroos clash starts Greater Western Sydney’s second half of the season after entering the mid-season bye with a bitterly disappointing 3-8 record and a new coach, Mark McVeigh.
Ward is in the final stages of the AFL’s concussion protocols after being subbed out of Greater Western Sydney’s loss to Brisbane before the mid-season bye.
The 32-year-old midfielder will become the first Giant to play 200 games for the club if he is passed fit, while Whitfield missed the past two games with an ankle issue but is expected to train fully on Friday.
There is still some uncertainty around Tim Taranto’s back problem, which will keep him out for a third game but potentially no more than that.
Lachie Whitfield could be back playing this weekend after missing two games with an ankle injury. Picture: Getty Images
Bobby Hill underwent a successful operation after being diagnosed with testicular cancer and is out indefinitely.
But first-round draftees Finn Callaghan (foot) and Leek Aleer (calf) face at least a month on the sidelines.
Hopper, 25, enjoyed an outstanding season last year that saw him short-listed for All-Australian honours but hasn’t played since round 1 after swelling, pain and discomfort persisted from off-season knee surgery.
Subsequent scans revealed a new injury that required a further operation, and the star on-baller went under the knife again in late March.
The rehabilitation from the second surgery went much smoother, with Hopper to meet with a knee specialist this week in the hope of being cleared to resume full training.
Tim Taranto won’t return until at least next week from his back injury. Picture: Phil Hillyard
He has been running for several weeks and could play at some level within a fortnight, in what would be a major boost after GWS’s rocky first half of the season.
Tom Green has emerged as the Giants’ contested-ball beast in Hopper’s absence and they will likely form a menacing midfield duo once they rejoin forces.
There is also good news for veteran defender Phil Davis, who was back with the main training group at the weekend after being sidelined for multiple months with a severe hamstring setback.
Davis is on track to play in the VFL in two weekends’ time.
Brent Daniels (hamstring), Conor Stone (hamstring), Daniel Lloyd (broken arm) and Jack Buckley (knee) are still a month or more from playing.