ST KILDA is unlikely to have Dan Hannebery available for its round one clash with Greater Western Sydney, with veteran recruit James Frawley set to join him on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring injury in the club's AAMI Community Series victory over Carlton on Thursday night.
Frawley limped from the field in the first quarter of his side's 26-point victory, having pulled up lame while feeling at the same area of his hamstring that he has been nursing throughout pre-season.
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It's set to spark a competition for spots in the Saints' backline, with the experienced Jake Carlisle expected to take part in a VFL practice match on Friday as he prepares to duel with mature-aged recruit Tom Highmore for the final spot in the team's defence.
"We're not completely sure how bad it is, but it is a hamstring in that same area. I'm tipping he'll be two or three weeks out, depending on the scan and where it sits," St Kilda coach Brett Ratten said.
"I think Tom Highmore has done some good things straightaway at the footy club. He's had some opportunities, he played a quarter last week and he was lucky because of 'Chip' (Frawley) that he got to play three quarters tonight.
"He's done a lot of things right. We'll go through that in the selection and whether Jake Carlisle comes in or it's Tom Highmore, we might even play a bit different. Jimmy Webster can play taller, Nick Coffield can play taller as well … we're not going to make any decisions on that."
But while running midfielder Zak Jones appears set to return from a hamstring strain for the round one road trip against the Giants, Hannebery is unlikely to feature as he continues to deal with a calf injury.
"Zak Jones trained really well the other day, so he'll be right in the mix. We'll have a pretty strong hitout next week, before the players have the weekend off. He'll have to complete that," Ratten said.
"Dan Hannebery has had a little bit of time in that calf, but we're going to be patient with him. We don't want to push too hard with it, he's too important for us. He's a valuable player, not just from his performance but his leadership as well.
"He'll probably be in doubt for round one, but we just don't want to push him. If it looks a bit sore, we'll take a conservative approach there because there's a lot of footy to be played and we don't need to be rushing him out."
Meanwhile, Carlton might have dodged a bullet on the injury front after three of the club's key players – Harry McKay, Jacob Weitering and Jack Newnes – limped from the field without returning at Marvel Stadium.
McKay tweaked the same ankle he struggled with last week against Essendon, Weitering suffered a corked hip following a collision with teammate Liam Jones, and Newnes rolled his ankle in a nasty collision.
"It looks pretty positive, considering. We weren't going to take any risks," Blues coach David Teague said afterwards.
"Harry McKay was his ankle again. It was a bit sore. I don’t know if he tweaked it or he felt it was sore, but we were pretty quick. We said all along that if any of our boys get too sore … they've had a great training block leading into and we've pushed them pretty hard to this stage.
"I think Jacob Weitering was a corkie in the hip or in the buttock, somewhere around that end, and Jack Newnes was an ankle."
The club also remains confident Mitch McGovern (hamstring), Levi Casboult (knee) and Eddie Betts (calf) will be fit for round one, but new recruit Zac Williams could have something to answer for following his first-quarter bump on St Kilda youngster Hunter Clark.
Williams left the ground as he caught Clark high and late, with Teague refusing to be drawn on whether the high-profile free agency acquisition will have a case to answer for ahead of round one.
"Everyone is talking about it, so it must be something to worry about," Teague said.
"I briefly looked at it on the phone and, to be honest, the view wasn't great. I'm not exactly sure, but I've loved having him at our footy club and I hope he's available.
"I thought what he did tonight, particularly when we needed someone to stand up around the contest and be tough, I thought his ability to win the ball and use it and get the ball going our way was very good.
"He plays a role in the forward half as well. I think he kicked a couple from forward-50 stoppages, which was exciting. I really hope he's available because we've loved having him, as well as Adam Saad and Lachie Fogarty as well."