The popular follower had a complete knee reconstruction last April after suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament deep into the second term of the Pies humiliating 10-goal thumping from staunch rival Carlton at the MCG.
Ironically, it could even be an AFL return for Ball against the Blues again in a highly anticipated blockbuster in Round 2 back at the “G” on Sunday April 7.
Ball, 28, is back in full training but has not made an appearance in the Pies NAB Cup series at all so far.
He faces a complicated playing comeback in a bid to gain vital game-time conditioning in the last stages of his complete recovery.
Ball and Pies management must negotiate their last NAB Cup qualifier and then either a summer series grand final next week or a scratch-match ahead of a Round 1 premiership season opener against North Melbourne on Easter Sunday in a little over three weeks.
Ball appears in a genuine race against the clock to make it to Round 1.
He is unlikely to play in Saturday night’s virtual ‘qualifying’ NAB series final when the Pies host a much improved Brisbane at Etihad Stadium.
The Pies sit third on percentage behind the Lions on the NAB Cup ladder with the winner on Saturday likely to advance to the pre-season grand final against either Carlton, who sit on top or North Melbourne in fourth but also undefeated through three matches.
The Blues should qualify for their latest pre-season title play-off in nine years with a win over Adelaide in Adelaide on Friday night.
North have the biggest hurdle to cross in any hopes of a pre-season grand final showdown with an appointment in Geelong against the Cats on Saturday afternoon.