West Coast star Mark LeCras has not ruled out returning for the finals, but isn't pinning his hopes on being back in time from a knee reconstruction.
LeCras has gritted his teeth through a frustrating four months in rehabilitation since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a pre-season training session.
He has reached the point where he can run again, change direction on his injured knee and kick with both feet, but acknowledged any small setback could still delay his return date.
"I don't think I can afford to look past my next running session," the star forward said. "There's a lot that can happen.
"I'm trying to focus on getting through each step before I start looking 10, 12 weeks in advance.
"But getting back to playing footy is definitely my motivation at the moment. I want to work as hard as I can on the training track and I want to get back to training as quick as I can and we'll see what happens after that."
Coach John Worsfold said last week the Eagles would not consider until later in the season whether an early return for LeCras was worth the risk.
LeCras said returning this season was a dream scenario he had not yet discussed with officials.
It would be a comeback of high risk, knowing the complications that could arise if he hurt the knee again heading into the final year of his contract at West Coast.
The 25-year-old has tried not to dwell on the way his knee popped as he turned with the ball in hand while trying to evade teammate Callum Papertalk during match simulation at Patersons Stadium on February 16. He knew immediately the injury was serious.
"I heard it go and felt it as well. Just going off previous blokes that have done their knee, I sort of thought that might be what I'd done," he said.
LeCras spent several weeks on crutches after surgery and said he hadn't been a fun guy to be around.
"I wouldn't have been easy to live with I don't think," he said. "The emotions were pretty up and down.
"You go through the periods where you're pretty positive and then you realise what's happened and how long you're going to be out for."
The 2010 club champion spent time early in his rehabilitation at his family home in Cervantes, 200km north of Perth.
"It's definitely a place where I can get to and not have too many people around me and take my mind off footy and all the other things that are going on around me," LeCras said.
"I try to get up there and go fishing and just walk on the beach as much as I can."
LeCras has spent time in the coach's box during his injury exile.
Being able to discuss the finer details about his body's recovery with four-times Bernie Naylor medallist Brad Smith and teammate Mitch Brown has also helped.
Smith was drafted by the Eagles at the end of 2004 but never played an AFL game due to two knee reconstructions in one of the game's hard-luck stories.
Brown missed the entire 2008 season following his own ACL tear.
LeCras said he had taken heart from the example set by St Kilda veteran Lenny Hayes. The 32- year-old has made a remarkable recovery from the same operation.
He has averaged 25 disposals this season and is every bit the dominant player he was pre-injury.
"I've felt pretty confident in my knee since I had the surgery," LeCras said.
"Hopefully I can get back into it and just forget about it and be as if it was never there.
"It's definitely frustrating going through it and not being able to do what you obviously love to do and you're paid for as well.
"Just looking at him (Hayes), he seems like the sort of bloke who has just backed his knee in and has put it out of his mind.
"I think he's just concentrated on playing footy and not worried about his knee.
"Hopefully I can do the same and get back to some good form when I get back into the side."
LeCras said he was prepared for the realistic possibility of West Coast going deep into finals, or even winning a premiership, and not being an active part in it.
"I'll definitely be OK," LeCras said. "I think I've got quite a lot of footy left in me. I think this side's going to be a good side for quite an amount of time.
"Like I say, my motivation is definitely there to get back healthy and playing as quick as I can."