DAYNE Beams could be out for at least half the season, with the Brisbane Lions reluctant to push along his recovery from knee tendinitis.
Lions coach Justin Leppitsch delivered the news on Thursday morning ahead of round one, saying Beams was making progress, but the club would take a "conservative approach".
Beams was a joint best and fairest winner in his first season in Brisbane and had recovered strongly from off-season shoulder surgery, before the tendinitis flared up after Christmas.
"As a coach, you're always taking the pessimistic approach and putting another month or two on where he should be," Leppitsch said.
"My brain's saying "oh well, we'll see him in the second half of the year" and hopefully that happens.
"You don't want to put any pressure on that rehab, particularly with a tendon.
"Tendons are funny things. Sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back, which it has been over the last month-and-a-half.
"It can improve quickly and we can potentially have him back before that period, but we'll take a very conservative approach."
Beams and suspended leader Dayne Zorko will be the notable omissions from the Lions' round one team to take on West Coast in Perth on Sunday.
Captain Tom Rockliff (hamstring) and small forwards Allen Christensen (finger) and Josh Green (foot) will all feature despite not playing a pre-season game.
Leppitsch said he was not concerned about their lack of match practice.
"They're experienced players. I'm confident they've been around enough now to know what they're doing," he said.
The Lions coach was optimistic about his team's chances taking on the 2015 runners-up.
"I'm a believer that if you're going to go to Perth anytime, round one is a great time to do it," he said.
"Everyone's new and a bit unsure of each other and what they've done over the pre-season, and some of the great upsets happen in the first three of four rounds.
"I'm excited by it and I know the boys are.
"We go there on a mission. We're all ready to go and give everything we've got."