Western Bulldogs half-back Ed Richards will return against Collingwood at Marvel Stadium on Friday night after recovering from a hamstring strain ahead of schedule.
The 24-year-old has missed the past four games since he was substituted out of the round 12 loss to Geelong at the start of June.
But after pushing to return against Fremantle last weekend, Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge confirmed Richards' selection after the defender completed an important training session at the Whitten Oval on Wednesday.
"Yes, he will come into the side. He is ready. He has progressed pretty well through our return to play program, trained extremely with his cross training, so we will roll him out tomorrow night," Beveridge told reporters at a press conference on Thursday.
"It is a fraction early. Our guys base their assessments on different markers and progressions. He has ticked everything off. He has worked extremely hard and done enough training in his preparation to be ready.
"Ed doesn’t lose much (conditioning); he is high-end endurance and speed. Hopefully we don't get any recurrences because it is the first soft tissue for him."
The Bulldogs have been forced to deal with the absence of Richards and Jason Johannisen across the middle part of the season, with the 2016 Norm Smith Medallist at least a fortnight away after sustaining a high-grade hamstring strain against Adelaide in round 10.
But with Richards slotting back in at half-back, Beveridge expects 2020 All-Australian defender Caleb Daniel to continue in his 2023 midfield role after playing down back in the win over Fremantle in round 16.
"With Ed coming back in, we'll have some flexibility. We don’t anticipate we'll have too much change to our side. You'll probably find him at different stages running through our midfield," Beveridge said.
"I talked about that bidding war for Caleb's services each week. Our coaches are pretty selfless and team oriented, but if you asked Rohan [Smith] if he'd like him to play as a backmen he would say he'd have him. If you asked 'Ladey' [Brendon Lade] if he wanted him in the midfield you'd get a similar answer."
Friday night's fixture is officially sold out with the Western Bulldogs hopeful of receiving a member show rate that leads to 50,000 people in the building for an AFL game for the first time since 2012.