MELBOURNE premiership defender Michael Hibberd won't play in Wednesday night's Grand Final rematch against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG.
The 32-year-old tweaked his calf late in the pre-season and hasn’t been given the green light to return in time for the opening game of the 2022 season.
Hibberd missed the AAMI Community Series loss to Carlton earlier this month and is set to be one of three premiership players to miss round one, with key defender Harry Petty (calf) and Trent Rivers (knee) also ruled out.
Demons coach Simon Goodwin said the club wasn’t prepared to take the risk with the veteran backman, who was recalled for last year's preliminary final before signing a one-year contract extension in October.
"Michael won't play. He's a little bit tight in that calf still," Goodwin told reporters at Port Melbourne Football Club on Tuesday morning.
"You will probably see him running around shortly; he's not too far away. It's just not worth taking a risk at this stage of the season.
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"Trent Rivers won't play. He is still recovering from a knock on his knee, so we're really hopeful he'll be good by the week after."
With Hibberd, Petty and Rivers to miss the opening game of the premiership, Jayden Hunt and Joel Smith are in contention to be recalled, along with Adam Tomlinson, who was the hard luck story of Melbourne's first premiership win in 57 years.
Tomlinson tore his anterior cruciate ligament against North Melbourne in round seven last year but has made a rapid recovery, playing two games across the pre-season to put his hand up to replace Petty and restart his AFL career just 10 months post-surgery.
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Goodwin stopped short of confirming Tomlinson's spot in defence alongside All-Australian pair Steven May and Jake Lever, but praised the 28-year-old's determination to get back so quickly.
"Tommo is right in the selection mix. He's done everything right," he said.
"It's actually quite an incredible story. He's come back within eight months and into full training and playing games of footy and he's nine months in. He's very close to selection.
"It's going to be a tough one for us to decide upon, but he's put himself in the best possible shape he can possibly be in."
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Hibberd and Petty trained away from the main group to start Tuesday's captain's run at the Port Melbourne Football Club.
Petty was forced to undergo surgery on his calf in February to release the bleeding after a nasty incident in match simulation.
Melbourne will name its team on Tuesday night ahead of the opening game of the season.