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Brown in best in VFL return

Nathan Brown has made a succesful return from injury in the VFL
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COLLINGWOOD defender Nathan Brown made his much-anticipated comeback on Saturday, returning from a long-term knee injury that has kept him out for nearly a year in the VFL.

Brown ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the 2011 pre-season, before pushing back hard and putting himself in contention for a return late last season.

But those plans were dashed when the 23-year-old cracked his patella in a freak mishap during a mid-season training camp in Arizona in June last year.

Saturday's match marked his first game of competitive football since the 2010 Grand Final Replay against St Kilda.

Brown told after the game he had been patient with his recovery time and that he had finally felt ready to play.

"Yeah amazing, it was just good to have a bit of a run because I've sort of been overdue for nearly a month and a half now so I've just been held back, held back and held back," Brown said.

"So it was good to get out there and get that first game under the belt."

Brown played 75 per cent game time and was solid enough in defence to be named one his team's best in his side's 46-point loss to North Ballarat at Victoria Park.

The defender said he had been meticulous in his rehabilitation and that he was careful that his return was not too premature.

"Because I haven't pushed back as hard as possible, I knew that my body was better than ever and we've done a lot of testing and that testing proved that my body was better than ever—even better than before my injury," he said.

"The first quarter I was a bit out of it, but as the game went on and particularly after half-time I found my intensity and got back used to playing footy.

"I'm stoked with what I was able to get out of today and it was a massive step for me and proved that my knee can withstand [football] and that I'm finally over these injuries.

"And now it's about getting that match fitness up and getting my form up and then coming back in to the ones as soon as possible."

Despite being buoyed by his return, Brown indicated he didn't want to rush his return to the Pies' AFL side.

"I think what I proved today is that from the first quarter to the third quarter there was a massive change in my confidence and my touch and the way I read the play," he said.

"Each week I'm going to get better and better and each quarter I'm going to get better and better so I guess the coaches are going to be patient with me."

"If that means another two games in the VFL, I'm happy with that because I'm going to improve each week and I'm not going to put my hand up to play ones, until I know I'm ready to play and I'll only know that when I'm fully match fit and able to get through games."

Midfielder Sharrod Wellingham, suspended by the club for two games for disciplinary reasons, withdrew from the side before the game with a suspected quadricep injury.

Veteran midfielder Ben Johnson gathered 22 possessions, while Simon Buckley (19) Peter Yagmoor (16) and ruckman Cameron Wood (18 and 32 hit-outs) also had an effect on the game.

Ben Guthrie is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter - @AFL_BenGuthrie