Nothing stings so much for an athlete than to be hurt before the season bounces, but Carlton Blues star Sam Docherty, who ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament soon after returning to the club to start training, is taking the optimistic approach of believing that he can get back during the 2018 AFL Premiership season.

The Blues might be taking a more conservative mental perspective, however, as the type of injury sustained by Docherty typically involves a nine to 12 month recovery and rehabilitation period.

Their cautious approach is understandable, as they would be foolhardy to risk the future of their 2016 club best and fairest award recipient.

Obviously, Docherty is frustrated and the Blues are faced with the dilemma of who to fill the void his absence will create, regardless of the actual time period involved.

A similar injury, this one late in the 2016 season, caused West Coast Eagle star Nic Naitanui to miss all of 2017.

About the only bright spot for Docherty is that if it were 1997 instead of 2017, such an injury might mean the end of a career.

Hurt in the latter part of November, Docherty recalls that it seemed like nothing at the time. “It was a weird feeling, there was no pain, it just sort of felt a bit uncomfortable and bit loose,” he told Channel 9. “Obviously, getting the news you’re going to be out for nine to 12 months isn’t ideal but I’ve got plenty to look forward to.”

Docherty is planning to use his time away in an off-field capacity, perhaps even some coaching. He underwent the traditional surgery for his type of injury, knee reconstruction, saying afterward of his chances of playing in 2018, “I think there is a very slim chance but it’s very low,” he said. “It all depends on how well it settles, how well I get my range back quickly, when I can start running.”

Some of the Blues’ options include Lachie Plowman, Kade Simpson and Cam O’Shea, but losing their first All-Australian selection since 2011 has to be a bitter pill.