FORMER Melbourne captain Nathan Jones faces the prospect of not playing again at AFL level unless the Demons can return to the finals.
The 32-year-old aggravated his right quadriceps in Thursday's disappointing 21-point loss to Sydney and resorted to kicking on his non-preferred left boot before his day ended early.
Jones could miss up to a month with his latest setback, only two games after being a late withdrawal from the Western Bulldogs match in round 13 with tightness in the same area.
ROUNDS 16-18 Check out the full fixture
He is six games short of the 300-match milestone and will have to play on next season if he is to achieve that and potentially go past David Neitz (306) as Melbourne's games record-holder.
However, Jones is out of contract and there is no guarantee he will score a new deal with Simon Goodwin's side.
"Obviously, he's frustrated, but he's a pro, Nathan. He knows his body incredibly well and he'll get it right as quickly as he can," Goodwin said on Sunday.
"I think the frustration comes for Nathan because he wants to play well for the footy club.
"We're in a situation where we're a chance to put ourselves into a position to play finals and Nathan wants to be part of a successful team."
Jones is one of three Melbourne footballers who will miss Monday's clash with Fremantle out of the Swans match.
Angus Brayshaw, who recaptured his best form in the past month after moving back into an inside midfield role, strained a ligament in one of his feet and will miss at least the next fortnight.
LADDER PREDICTOR Can your team make the eight?
James Harmes (hamstring tightness) is also unavailable, but defender Michael Hibberd (ankle) is set to return from a one-game absence.
There's good news for onballer Tom Sparrow (collarbone), who could play next week against Greater Western Sydney, while ruckman Luke Jackson (hamstring) still hopes to return in round 18.
James Jordon (finger) is also nearing full fitness, and Marty Hore has recovered from a serious quadriceps injury.