Reigning John Nicholls medal winner Sam Walsh has been confirmed for a shock return to Carlton's side on Thursday night after a stunning recovery from a syndesmosis injury suffered on the eve of the season.
The Cobden export was initially slated to miss at least the opening month of the AFL season, but after sitting out the opening round victory against Richmond, the star midfielder and co-vice captain is locked in for the blockbuster against the Western Bulldogs.
"'Walshy' is going to play, which is really exciting. He's an important member of our team and did everything right in his preparation," Carlton assistant coach Ash Hansen said on Wednesday.
"Everyone has got an individual timeline, and Sam has ticked all the boxes that we've required him to both medically and physically. We're really confident he has ticked all the boxes he needed to.
"We kept an open mind with the timeline. Everyone is individual and has their own rehab process: from the start, Sam was responding really well."
The Blues - sky-high on confidence after defeating Richmond - will need every bit of Walsh's class on the field with gun recruit Adam Cerra to miss against the Dogs after being sent into the AFL's health and safety protocols, joining teammate Jack Martin, senior coach Michael Voss, assistant coach Tim Clarke and football boss Brad Lloyd in seven-day isolation.
Fremantle ruckman Sean Darcy is also expected to return for his first game of the season, with the Cobden export missing the thrilling round one win against Adelaide.
The big man - who clinched his first Doig Medal in 2021 - has trained strongly after calf awareness prevented him from taking his place against the Crows and is expected to strengthen the side against St Kilda on Sunday.
Geelong Cats superstar and Dartmoor export Jeremy Cameron is slight chance to be available for Friday's night's clash against Sydney at the SCG.
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