From Geelong Advertiser
Reported by Jason Shields

COURAGEOUS Cat Tom Lonergan expects to return to the football field in four weeks' time, 293 days after the sickening onfield collision which almost cost him his life.

Lonergan, who celebrated his 23rd birthday yesterday, revealed he "could finally see the light" after enduring a painful off-field recovery, setting himself for a comeback through the VFL in about a month.

Lonergan was placed in an induced coma and underwent emergency surgery to remove his right kidney after colliding heavily with Melbourne's Brad Green at Skilled Stadium on August 26 last year.

"I made the decision about two months ago that I would aim to return mid-year and I'm on track at the moment,'' Lonergan said.

"I'm progressing each week now. At the start it was just about seeing how my body was going with the load and at the moment it's going pretty well.''

Lonergan was placed on Geelong's rookie list during the off-season after the 197cm defender decided to accept the medical risks associated with playing with only one kidney and attempt a comeback.

Cats' VFL coach Leigh Tudor said Lonergan had been taking part in competitive one-on-one training over the past two weeks at the club.

"He has been doing a lot more body contact stuff in the last week or so,'' Tudor said.

"You can see his body now and he has started to reap the rewards from the work that he has been doing. He has been doing a lot of work with the fitness guys and he is starting to look like a footballer again.''

Lonergan said although his training had been "pretty solid'', his recovery would remain a work in progress.

"I've just got to try and keep my body right. I guess I'm always going to have a bit of trouble with my stomach and the cuts right through, but I've just got to keep all the muscles (in my stomach) working,'' he said.

"Four to five weeks is round about the mark. You'll hear a bit about it when it gets closer anyway. I'm starting to get a bit excited about it, (but) I've just got to keep a lid on it now.''

Tudor expected Lonergan would be ``eased back into the game'' like any other player returning from long-term injury.

"We will be guided by the fitness guys and by Tom himself,'' Tudor said.

"It is not the sort of injury you see many times in footy, but he has been working his butt off and everyone has seen the work that he has put in.

"It has been good for the club to see and it will be so much better again when he actually plays.''