A training injury is has sidelined Essendon draftee Elijah Tsatas for close to two months, hampering the young gun's chances of a Round 1 debut against Hawthorn.
Tsatas joined the Bombers as the fifth overall selection in last year's National Draft, venturing to the Dons after a stellar draft year with the Oakleigh Chargers.
The teenager showed plenty of guile as a top draft prospect in 2022 to average 33.8 disposals, 7.2 marks and 8.2 inside 50s per game in the NAB League.
He would only manage the sole National Championships appearance however, with a foot fracture keeping the talented midfielder out of action for a significant period of last year.
Tsatas now looks likely to spend multiple months on the sidelines after suffering a tear in his meniscus, with GM of performance Dan McPherson confirming the young Bomber will require surgery after injuring his knee at training this week.
"Elijah suffered a knock to the knee during a contest drill earlier in the week, and the initial scan showed a minor tear in his meniscus. He has been assessed by a surgeon today who has recommended it be repaired," McPherson said.
“The post operation timeframes will be determined following the surgery but he is a young player with a bright future ahead of him, so whilst this setback is disappointing, we won't be rushing his return to play.
“He's had a great start to his time in the AFL system having produced a very impressive pre-season to this point. We will give him the required time to recover to ensure he is best prepared to re-join the AFL program.”
With the Bombers scheduled to open their 2023 campaign against Hawthorn on Sunday, March 19, Tsatas is seen as an unlikely chance to feature in Brad Scott's first game in charge of the Bombers.
Essendon have enjoyed a mostly injury-free pre-season, with a niggling ankle issue to Nik Cox and a back complaint for Zach Reid among the minor setbacks for Scott's squad.
Cox is back training with the main squad at Tullamarine and is eyeing an uninterrupted third season after battling multiple injuries last year that kept the versatile tall to just five appearances at senior level.
Tsatas is among a handful of young names in line to make their Bombers debut in 2023, with fellow draftees Lewis Hayes and Alwyn Davey Jr. also a chance to feature at AFL level this year, while recruits Sam Weideman and Will Setterfield will also be in the selection mix after moving from Melbourne and Carlton respectively.
Davey's twin brother, Jayden, will spend his first season with Essendon in recovery, having been moved to the inactive list after suffering an ACL injury in the first half of last year.
Essendon's Round 1 bout with rivals Hawthorn will take place at the MCG, with both clubs keen to flex their exuberating youth and talent early into the season.