MELBOURNE co-captain Jack Viney has been ruled out for round one, with the Demons not willing to rush their gun midfielder into the team after a limited pre-season.
Viney, who the Demons stressed had not suffered any fresh setbacks, is recovering from a persistent foot injury that required surgery last year and has continued to trouble him this pre-season.
The 23-year-old has been held out of both JLT Community Series matches, but the Demons have not yet shelved plans to release him for a VFL practice match against Box Hill on March 17.
That hit-out with VFL affiliate Casey shaped as a last-ditch attempt to prepare Viney for the round one clash against Geelong on March 25 at the MCG.
"We have decided that to give Jack the best preparation for the full year, he will not be available for selection for round one," football manager Josh Mahoney told AFL.com.au in a statement.
"Whilst he has not had any setbacks in his rehab program, Jack has not completed enough football sessions to give him the best chance to perform for the entire season."
Viney, who carried the plantar fascia injury for the majority of last season, underwent surgery last July and was originally expected to miss four to six weeks.
He returned in 19 days but broke down again by round 21, later conceding he had returned from the injury too soon as the Demons made an ultimately unsuccessful run to play finals.
Viney has finished top two in the Demons' best and fairest in each of the past three seasons, winning the award in 2016.
The tough onballer has played 88 games and was appointed co-captain alongside Nathan Jones ahead of coach Simon Goodwin's first season last year.