THE WESTERN Bulldogs have confirmed star midfielder Tom Liberatore will miss the 2015 season after scans revealed a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Liberatore will undergo a traditional knee reconstruction later this week after his knee buckled awkwardly in a tackle from Tiger Tyrone Vickery in Saturday's NAB Challenge clash at the Whitten Oval.
Bulldogs football manager Graham Lowe said the club's initial fears had been realised.
"Our initial prognosis of an ACL tear was confirmed today by MRI, and we are all feeling for Tom, who is an integral part of our team," Lowe said in a statement.
"He is in good spirits however, and we know he will take his rehabilitation in his stride. Tom is an extremely resilient young man, and will return bigger and better from this setback."
The 22-year-old was elevated to the Bulldogs' leadership group after a standout 2014 campaign which earned him his first club best and fairest award.
Liberatore led the competition in clearances and tackles and it was expected he would take another leap forward for the Dogs this season.
Having lost Ryan Griffen to Greater Western Sydney in the off-season, Liberatore's absence is a major blow for an inexperienced Dogs midfield.
The Bulldogs' youngsters at least showed some positive signs on Saturday as they defeated Richmond by 22 points in their NAB Challenge opener.
In more positive news for the Dogs, young midfielder Josh Prudden's head injury is not as serious as it looked.
Prudden was stretchered off after a violent hit in the final quarter, but the Dogs have told AFL.com.au he only has mild concussion.
The Bulldogs will continue to monitor his condition this week.