Melbourne could be forced to begin their premiership defence without defender Harrison Petty after he underwent surgery on a calf injury this week.
The Demons are priced at 7/2 to go back-to-back and win the 2022 AFL grand final but Petty may not be on board for the round one clash against the Western Bulldogs.
Petty took a whack to his calf during match simulation drills in training last Friday and the club had to take action after the swelling around the injury failed to go down over the weekend.
A small incision released the bleeding in the area and it will now take Petty in the region of four to six weeks to recover from the procedure.
That means the 22-year-old now faces a massive race against time to make the grand final rematch against the Western Bulldogs on 16th March.
The news comes as a big blow as Petty played in the final 18 matches of last year, including the grand final, and was a key performer.
He has just penned a new three-year contract extension and the Demons will be keen to get him back on the park as soon as possible.
"Harrison got a corkie during a bit of match sim last Friday and it was a pretty severe one," Melbourne football boss Alan Richardson said on Thursday.
"We gave it a week off to try and let things settle down but unfortunately that didn’t happen, so he had to have surgery. The surgery went really well, the surgeon's very optimistic that we're going to get the outcome that we're after.
"We’re thinking anywhere between four to six weeks before he’d be right to go again, so that’s pretty disappointing for him."