MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 05: Jack Henry of the Cats avoids a tackle by Blake Hardwick of the Hawks during the round 3 AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Hawthorn Hawks at Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 05, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Geelong defender Jack Henry is facing a race against the clock to be fit for Round 1, with a foot injury sidelining the emerging Cat for the next six weeks.

Henry was a standout riser for Chris Scott's side in 2021, earning a place on the best and fairest podium, polling the second most votes to narrowly trail backman Tom Stewart following a breakout campaign.

The local product has shown an impressive ability to play at either end of the ground, however Henry looks most at home deep in defence.

The 23-year-old is a key cog within Scott's defensive structure and will be a heavily-missed asset should he be unfit for selection for Geelong's Round 1 clash against Essendon on March 19.

As revealed by 7 News' Mitch Cleary, Henry required surgery on his foot last year and won't return to full training for close to two months.

"Jack Henry, Geelong's best and fairest runner-up, is in a fight to be fit for Round 1 after foot surgery," Cleary reported on Wednesday.

“The key defender was on light duties pre-Christmas, but fresh assessment revealed a partial foot fracture that will keep him off running for up to six weeks."

Henry ranked above average in his position for marks, contested marks, intercept marks, contested possessions, ground ball gets and disposal efficiency last season.

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With Stewart absent for the final few rounds of Geelong's 2021 campaign as well as their finals series, holes opened up in the Kardinia Park club's defence, which was a clear fault in their preliminary final exit to Melbourne.

Henry inked a new three-year deal with the Cats in April last year, remaining with the club until the end of the 2024 season.