Western Bulldogs forward Aaron Naughton is set to have surgery on a knee injury that could delay his start to the AFL season.
The 20-year-old sensation reported soreness in his right knee on Thursday.
It is the opposite knee to the one he hurt last year.
Naughton was a late withdrawal from the Bulldogs' pre-season series opener against North Melbourne on Friday night.
He will now undergo arthroscopic surgery to assess a cartilage concern, with no time frame put on his recovery at this stage.
Naughton has played 41 senior games in two seasons since being selected with pick No.9 in the 2017 draft.
The West Australian product was a revelation when switched from defence to attack last year, kicking 32.27 from 23 games.
Only Sam Lloyd (38) kicked more goals for the Bulldogs in 2019.
Naughton has been slated to play in dangerous attacking set-up alongside fellow tall Josh Schache and new recruit Josh Bruce.
The trio shapes as key pieces in the Bulldogs' finals aspirations after last year's embarrassing elimination final exit at the hands of eventual grand finalists Greater Western Sydney.
Naughton had been looking forward to playing alongside Schache and Bruce in practice matches ahead of round one.
"We'll be able to build that chemistry and no doubt it's going to be a lot of fun up there," he said last month.
Bruce was also ruled out of Friday night's pre-season opener, because of a back spasm.
Ruckman Tim English missed after copping a head knock during match simulation last week.
Bruce and veteran defender Matt Suckling (managed) are tipped to play in the Bulldogs' second pre-season match, against Port Adelaide on March 7.
Australian Associated Press