Richmond young gun Josh Gibcus and star key forward Tom Lynch are on track to make returns early next year after enduring injury-hit 2023 campaigns.
Gibcus didn't appear once this year due to a complicated hamstring injury that initially required surgery to repair the tendon in January, before multiple wound infections, muscular atrophy and damage to the nerve supply ended his season in July.
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The 2021 No.9 pick travelled to Qatar last month to spend a week at world-renowned sports medicine practice Aspetar in a bid to find some answers, after the complex injury left the Tigers' high-performance department and specialists around the world stumped.
Gibcus started pre-season training with the club's first-to-fourth-year players a fortnight ago and will follow a modified program this side of Christmas.
Speaking to the media for the first time since being unveiled as Richmond's new senior coach, Adem Yze preached patience with the 20-year-old key defender, but there is growing confidence Gibcus will be ready to resume his career early next season.
"He is tracking really nice. Up until Christmas we need to be really careful with this kid. He has had a tough time with it. It would have been a really frustrating year for him. We need to be mindful that we can't rush this," Yze told reporters at Punt Road on Wednesday.
"Right now, he wants to get involved in everything, and he probably can, but we're just going to temper that, just get him to Christmas and set a nice base for him, so when he comes in he doesn't have any setbacks.
"He is a terrific talent for us. We can't wait to see him out there. he is really close to joining full training – he will do a little bit more today – but we will get him to Christmas."
Lynch spent most of last pre-season training away from the main group due to a plantar fascia issue before transitioning back into full training on the eve of the season.
The 31-year-old played the first four games of last season before missing the rest of the season with a broken foot that has taken longer than first thought to recover from.
Lynch trained indoors on a wet and windy Wednesday morning at the Swinburne Centre and won't start transitioning back into the main group until January at the earliest.
"He had a really tough run last season and right now he is ticking all the boxes, but really similar to Josh, we just need to temper how quick we get him back out there," Yze said.
"If it means he is not available at the start of the year then we've got to be really patient with that. I'm hoping he will be, but he is progressing and he will start to up the ante after Christmas.
"The scans and everything that he has been through, everything has been positive so far. Hopefully he can have a good year next year."
Richmond will start its leadership process this week and continue it when the Tigers head to Inverloch next week for a pre-season camp.
The Tigers appointed Dylan Grimes and Toby Nankervis as the club's first ever co-captains at the start of 2022, replacing three-time premiership skipper Trent Cotchin.
Yze said any captaincy decision won't be his alone, it will involve the current leaders and the wider football club.
"It won't just be my decision; it will be a footy club decision. There will be a process around selecting the leadership group, then we will work out from there," he said.
"That process will start this week. We go on a camp next week which will be important. It will be a club decision and realistically the guys that are in our leadership group are going to have a fair say in that decision as well. That information will come out in the next few weeks."
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