MELBOURNE is expected to be without promising youngster Blake Howes for an extended period, after the club's athletic first-year player suffered a stress fracture in his foot at training last week.
It's understood the 19-year-old is set to undergo surgery to repair the damage on Thursday, with the issue likely to keep the talented wingman sidelined for a significant chunk of his maiden campaign with the reigning premier.
Howes has impressed Demons officials since being recruited to the club with pick No.39 in last year's NAB AFL Draft. That growth was recognised when he was named as the travelling emergency for the side's round four clash with Port Adelaide.
The versatile 190cm youngster kicked two goals for Casey against Essendon in the VFL earlier this month, while he has also averaged 13 disposals across his three reserves games so far this season.
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But he was sidelined for last weekend's VFL clash with Coburg at Casey Fields as he awaited scan results, with Melbourne expecting Howes to be sidelined for at least two months as he recovers.
The unbeaten Demons are also expected to be without premiership defender Michael Hibberd for at least another week with a calf injury, while fellow half-back Christian Salem is still around a month away from recovering after a knee injury.
Melbourne takes on Richmond at the MCG next Sunday night.