MELBOURNE midfielder Billy Stretch could miss the rest of the 2018 season after suffering a stress fracture in his small toe.
The onballer will not get the chance to build on his impressive return against Fremantle last weekend with elite performance manager Dave Misson saying the scan results showed a more severe injury than what was first anticipated.
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"He had a run on Monday as part of our recovery and just felt sore in his little toe," Misson told the club's website.
"Bill will be out for a while – it may even be the season, but we’ll keep putting him through the rehab process.
"It's really bad luck for Billy."
In his second senior game for the season, Stretch gathered 24 disposals and had five inside 50s in a strong display against the Dockers in humid conditions.
With Joel Smith (hip) also in considerable doubt for Saturday's game against the Dogs, Bernie Vince, Dom Tyson, Mitch Hannan and Tom Bugg are all set to come into the selection frame.
Misson said Smith – who started in the rehab group and then joined teammates for more vigorous drills – remained a chance to play against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG on Saturday.
"He did half the session today and finished pretty well," he said.
"He's got a few more things to tick off on Friday but we’re quite hopeful."
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Stretch's other match at AFL level came in round five against Richmond, with the 21-year-old collecting 16 disposals.
The hard-working midfielder had been in excellent form at VFL level prior to his AFL recall, averaging 25.8 disposals across his last four games at the lower level.
He has averaged 24.6 disposals (11.2 contested) and seven tackles from nine games for Casey this season.
Stretch, contracted until the end of 2019, is regarded as one of the most professional players on Melbourne's list with the South Australian playing 38 games in his four seasons at the Demons.
Stretch, the son of former Melbourne player Steven, was a father-son selection (No.42 overall) in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft.