St Kilda have suffered a significant blow with ruckman Rowan Marshall set to miss the start of the AFL season after scans revealed a foot stress injury.
The 25-year-old, who forms a dangerous ruck-forward partnership with experienced big man Paddy Ryder, will be out of action for at least a month.
Marshall will then build up his training load, with the Saints hopeful he will return “early in the season”.
It means new recruit Shaun McKernan or inexperienced Sam Alabakis could be called upon to partner Ryder during the early rounds.
“To have this happen right before the season is obviously disappointing given Rowan is such an important player in our squad,” St Kilda chief operating officer Simon Lethlean said.
“Fortunately, we identified the injury very early, Rowan is not in any pain and there’s no fracture to the bone which is a good result.”
“These types of injuries are ones that you just need to monitor and take your time with, so we’ll work closely with Rowan to make sure it continues to improve so that he can return as soon as possible early in the season.”
Marshall joins Jarryn Geary on the sidelines, with the co-captain still five or six weeks away from returning after he suffered a fractured fibula at training in late January.
St Kilda are hopeful Zak Jones will overcome his latest hamstring injury in time for the round-one clash with Greater Western Sydney on March 21.
The tough midfielder, who was sidelined twice last season with similar issues after joining the Saints from Sydney, strained his left hamstring last week.
“Overall, the majority of our list is very fit and healthy and focused on preparing themselves to be ready to go in round one,” Lethlean said.
Youngster Ryan Byrnes will have surgery on a hamstring tendon injury that is expected to keep him out of action for two months.