MELBOURNE is bracing to be without star defender Steven May for multiple weeks after he was taken to hospital following a gruesome eye injury during the side's resounding victory over Geelong on Sunday.
May was caught by a stray elbow from Cats spearhead Tom Hawkins early in the second quarter, coming straight from the field with blood streaming from his eye region and with significant swelling around the area.
The Demons are still investigating whether May also sustained a concussion as a result of the blow that would subsequently force him into the AFL's new 12-day protocol, but the club does not believe he will be fit to play in the immediate future regardless.
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Adam Tomlinson replaced May in manning Hawkins and performed admirably, though it's a brutal blow for the unbeaten Melbourne as it prepares to continue its successful start to the year against Hawthorn and Richmond over the next fortnight.
"He's gone to hospital," Demons coach Simon Goodwin said afterwards.
"It's more about some stuff around his eye and getting that checked out. We're not sure what that looks like yet, we'll wait and see. Clearly, he's going to miss a few weeks and that's disappointing.
"We're still getting all of the details (around concussion), so we're not 100 per cent sure. But it's going to be a few weeks anyway. Concussion, the eye … whatever that looks like, it's going to be a few weeks."
Melbourne has earmarked youngster Harrison Petty to potentially fill May's void in the backline, categorically ruling out Tom McDonald making a return to a defensive position in the coming weeks.
That's despite key forward duo Sam Weideman and Ben Brown making it through a VFL practice match unscathed on Saturday, with both set to again line up for Casey in its round one clash against Box Hill next week.
Geelong is also on the cusp of welcoming back some high-profile names, with superstar Patrick Dangerfield to return from suspension ahead of next week's clash with North Melbourne and gun recruit Jeremy Cameron also on the verge of his Cats debut.
Cameron is yet to feature for his new side after enduring a hamstring setback on the eve of the season, though coach Chris Scott is confident he could line up against the Kangaroos at GMHBA Stadium next Sunday evening.
Fellow forward Gary Rohan will also return from suspension, with Geelong hoping its trio of key inclusions will help to overturn a frustrating start to the campaign that has left last year's Grand Finalists with an indifferent 2-2 record.
"I hope next week (for Cameron)," Scott said.
"But you might be surprised to hear, it's not really my call. I'll have a bit of a say on it, but you've got to be careful that you don't base your decision-making on what you want to be true.
"I said during the week that we'd make a cautious, well-considered decision with him and I still think we're in that frame of mind.
"If they're all fit, I don't see why we couldn't bring them all back together. Our preference is to have the same seven forwards every single week, but I think they're such good players that we'd squeeze them in."
Geelong is also confident that Brandan Parfitt will return next week, after he was a late withdrawal on Sunday due to a hip complaint, while Mark Blicavs should be fine after failing to finish the loss to Melbourne with a corked knee.
But despite the issues the Cats are currently facing, having lost to Adelaide and Melbourne and only narrowly scraped victories over Brisbane and Hawthorn, Scott does not believe it is time to panic just yet.
"I don't think we're going that well, but I think we're going better than we were at this time last year," Scott said.
"You might say we were in a lockdown this time last year, but at this stage of the season … it's a low bar, isn't it? The upside is, we're going better than this time last year. But we took a bit of time to hit our straps last year.
"I'm not saying it's the plan. We haven't gone in thinking we'll just put ourselves to sleep for the first half of the year and get going when it really counts. Unfortunately, the way I'm looking at footy at the moment – and I have for some time – there aren't many free games.
"It's hard work every week and if you allow yourself to get talked into the idea that we're not going that well, we can fall behind really quickly. I think at 2-2, we're disappointed with that. But all is not lost."