Sydney Swans coach John Longmire admits Callum Mills is facing a battle to make round one of the AFL campaign as he struggles with an Achilles issue.
The Swans are priced at 12/1 to win the 2022 AFL grand final and need to have their newly appointed co-captain fit and raring to go as soon as possible.
Mills first sustained the injury during the elimination final loss to Greater Western Sydney last August but has yet to return to full fitness.
Longmire admits it has been a frustrating time but says they will not take any risks with his recovery program so must stay patient.
"He's worked so much to get that Achilles right," Longmire told AFL.com.au. "Often with these injuries you take two steps forward and one step back. That's happened a little bit over the pre-season with him.
"Where that leaves him for round one, we're not sure just yet. We'll play him when he's right and he's right for the entire season.
"He's been doing some drills but we're really mindful we're not going to push him too hard if it sets him back two to three weeks."
There does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel though and all being well Mills could be back in full training within the next few weeks.
"We hope to introduce him to full training sessions over the next week or two and then to develop him into competitive training work," he added. "That's the plan but we'll be guided by how his Achilles is responding.
"We know he's giving himself every chance to be available as soon as he can."