Essendon ruckman Tom Bellchambers will miss the start of the AFL season after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle.
A meeting with a specialist convinced the club to send Bellchambers under the knife two months out from Essendon's first match of the season.
It's hoped that the operation will mend damaged ligaments in Bellchambers' ankle but Essendon have confirmed he will miss at least three months.
That would put him in danger of missing the club's opening six matches, including the Anzac Day match in round six.
Essendon coach Mark Thompson said Bellchambers was a resilient character but this was an unfortunate setback.
"To lose a player of Tom's ability for that amount of time is not ideal," Thompson said, "he'll have the full support of the fitness and medical team to help him get back out playing as soon as possible."
Despite the retirement of long-term Bombers ruckman David Hille at the end of the 2013 season, Thompson suggested he would not be light on for rucks in Bellchambers' absence.
"We have a number of quality players that can play in the ruck including Paddy Ryder and Joe Daniher, and we picked up Fraser Thurlow in the rookie draft over the summer."