HEATH Hocking will have groin surgery this week to correct an injury he carried through last season, and is likely to miss six weeks of Essendon's pre-season.
The Bombers midfielder played through pain in 2014 while dealing with groin soreness, and the club was hopeful it would ease in the off-season.
But Hocking returned to training and when his load stepped up and the groin issues remained, so will go under the knife on Friday.
"We thought he would settle down over the break, but he started to do a bit of work over the break and he wasn't totally comfortable with it," Essendon's high performance football manager Neil Craig told AFL.com.au.
"We decided to bite the bullet on that one and see if we can get him up. If we have the operation on Friday it still gives him enough time to prepare and hopefully be ready by round one.
"The aim there is for Heath Hocking to be able to play pain-free if possible."
Craig said the Bombers hoped to have Hocking back into full training by the end of January in a bid to have him available for the start of the season.
"It's not major surgery, but in terms of rehab and recuperation it's somewhere in between six and seven weeks before he's back into full training," he said.
The 26-year-old played 22 games last season despite the injury, and was named the club's best team player.
Already a member of the club's leadership group, Hocking's standing among his teammates grew as he played and performed under duress, according to Craig.
"He played sore a fair bit last year with those groins and did a fantastic job, particularly in the role that he plays picking up some of the best players in the competition every week," he said.
"You can imagine going into a game feeling a bit sore and having to do that, so it's a great credit to what Heath's been able to achieve.
"It sets a great example of being able to perform under individual adversity, so that sends great messages to the playing group."