ST KILDA has been dealt a major blow with ruckman Rowan Marshall to miss the start of the 2021 season with a stress injury in his foot.
Marshall will be sidelined for at least the next month – that coincides with round one – with hope he will ramp up his recovery soon after.
The 25-year-old's setback means the Saints' ruck duties will fall to veteran Paddy Ryder or back-up option Shaun McKernan in the short-term.
Ex-Crow Paul Hunter, who is currently training with the Saints in the hope of winning a list spot, presents as another option along with developing tall Sam Alabakis.
"To have this happen right before the season is obviously disappointing given Rowan is such an important player in our squad," Saints chief operating officer Simon Lethlean said.
"Fortunately, we identified the injury very early, Rowan is not in any pain and there's no fracture to the bone which is a good result.
"These types of injuries are ones that you just need to monitor and take your time with, so we'll work closely with Rowan to make sure it continues improve so that he can return as soon as possible early in the season."
It comes after the Saints revealed speedster Zak Jones had suffered another hamstring injury that will sideline him for three weeks.
Veteran Dan Hannebery has also been on restricted duties in recent weeks while dealing with a calf complaint.
Co-captain Jarryn Geary is expected to return to running inside six weeks after a fractured leg, while young midfielder Ryan Byrnes has been sent for hamstring surgery that will sideline him for at least two months.