COLLINGWOOD forward Alex Fasolo could be in doubt for the Magpies' JLT Community Series opener on March 1 as he prepares to undergo shoulder surgery on Tuesday.
Fasolo injured the shoulder at training a fortnight ago and it did not respond to treatment, with Collingwood football manager Geoff Walsh predicting he will be out until at least February.
Walsh also said Fasolo's fellow forward Jamie Elliott may be sidelined until late March as he recovers from an ankle operation.
The news is a significant blow for the Pies, given the pair led the club's goalkicking in 2017 – Elliott booted 34 majors and Fasolo 29.
"Unfortunately, the week before last he had a bit of an incident on the training track, which at the time didn't look that bad," Walsh told SEN on Monday.
"Alex has had a history of some shoulder issues and the impact at training was enough to set him back sufficiently.
"It was going to be an in-and-out job for two or three times in the year, so it was thought by our medical team best to bite the bullet (and book him for surgery).
"We really won't know until the surgeon goes in and has a look around how many weeks we are looking at, but certainly, I think, it's an eight-plus week job at least."
The dynamic small forward has fought a much-publicised battle with depression and laid bare the challenges he faced in an eye-opening article on Players' Voice in August.
Walsh said Elliott's rehabilitation had been "really strong and he might be a little bit ahead of the curve if anything".
"That's one thing about Jamie – his approach to his rehab is pretty strong and he's doing the same thing again," he said.
"So while that is (still) a 12, 14-week stint on the sidelines, he's really pleasing our medical people with his progress."
Elliott revealed in an interview with Collingwood's website that he could have gone without an operation on his injured ankle.
But the risk the Collingwood star may never return to full capacity was enough to sway the Pies to explore the surgical route, with Elliott going under the knife in November.
"We had a chat that I could probably get through seasons but I'd be playing at 85 per cent. Where if I'm playing I want to be at 100 per cent," Elliott said.
"If I can't jump, or I can't sprint or I can't change direction, I can't bring my best."
Elliott said he was "naive" with the soreness he was experiencing prior to the beginning of pre-season after suffering the ankle injury late in the Pies' 2017 campaign.
"During the off-season it felt ok when I was running and then I'd run and it would feel a bit uncomfortable," he said.
"But I guess I was a bit naive. I could still run and I thought, 'Maybe it's not something?'
"But then when I came back and we got another scan and had a look at it, we basically said we've got time now to get it right and be 100 per cent.
"Or we can let it grumble along and, potentially, it might be right. But it's better off we go and see a surgeon and get a third opinion and see what he says.
"And the rest is history.
"They went in and fixed it up, so hopefully I've got a brand-new ankle."
Elliott, who said he was getting used to dealing with the frustrations of a long-term injury, is hoping to be back running in January.
Collingwood is confident he will be ready for the start of the season.
"I'm off the crutches now, basically, and got full weight bearing through the (moon)boot," Elliott said.
"I'm in the boot for another couple of weeks and then I'm weight-bearing in runners for three or four weeks and then gradually building up to start running again."