Essendon star Jake Stringer looks set to miss the start of the 2022 AFL campaign as he struggles with a groin injury in pre-season.
The Bombers are priced at 7/5 to make the top eight this season and Stringer will be absolutely crucial to their chances of playing finals footy.
Stringer has been working on a modified training program after reporting soreness in his groin two weeks ago but it has not fixed the issue.
The 27-year-old has now backed off with his training even further and he now faces a race against time to make sure he is ready for round one of the campaign.
The Bombers hope he will be able to step up his training in the next few weeks with a view to making the first game, but it could be tight.
"It's not ideal," Essendon assistant coach Dale Tapping told reporters. "You want all your players playing in the practice matches, but he's an experienced player and he's had a really good pre-season.
"His platform of pre-season has been really strong, so a few weeks off to manage this and make sure we get it right. I don't think it's disastrous for him. I think he can realign himself really quickly with the program when he gets fully fit."
One thing looks certain, Stringer is unlikely to play in any of the practice games before the season starts and one or two other players are also struggling.
Dylan Shiel missed Essendon's intra-club match at Tullamarine on Wednesday morning because of a quadricep issue but will be hoping to face the Bulldogs next week.