St Kilda rookie Olli Hotton will miss the opening half of the 2023 AFL season after sustaining a stress fracture in his back.
Hotton, who joined St Kilda from the Sandringham Dragons as the 35th overall pick from last year's National Draft, was a strong chance to be among Ross Lyon's best 22 in his first year at AFL level, offering pace and run as a formidable utility option.
His recent setback, which was confirmed by the club on Wednesday, will see the 18-year-old forced to the sidelines for an extended period of time before being eased back into training.
“This injury is a really disappointing blow for Olli who, like any draftee, was keen to get stuck into his program,” St Kilda performance, medical and operations manager David Misson told saints.com.au.
“The recovery for this type of injury requires a period of rest before incremental load increases, which while frustrating, should mean that this issue does not reoccur. In the meantime, unfortunately it is likely that Olli will miss the majority of the first half of the season while he recovers.”
Hotton isn't the only St Kilda draftee under an injury cloud, with South Australian product Isaac Keeler battling a tendon strain in his knee.
The ailment will mean Keeler is facing a delayed start to his pre-season program for 2023, with the teenager still a chance to be available for Round 1.
"Isaac suffered an injury to his knee in one of the last sessions of the year, which was later confirmed to be a torn tendon," Misson said.
"He is progressing well in his recovery and is scheduled to resume running in the coming weeks with the goal of full availability come Round 1.”
Defender Nick Coffield and ruckman Tom Campbell also suffered setbacks before the end of last year, with the former picking up a hamstring strain that required surgery. The injury has pushed Coffield's return from an ACL injury back a few weeks.
Campbell is battling an Achilles injury and will be touch-and-go for the club's pre-season matches, likely to be in late February to early March.
“Nick had been progressing really well in his ACL recovery before a hamstring strain towards the end of the year required surgery. This has only set him back a few weeks, and we expect him to be available for the pre-season games,” Misson said.
“Similarly, Tom Campbell aggravated his Achilles just before Christmas and given his age and the delicate nature of Achilles injuries, we're taking a considered approach to his training, with an eye on the pre-season games."
In brighter news for the Saints, Josh Battle (ankle), Jack Billings (back), Jade Gresham (knee), Jack Hayes (ACL), Dan McKenzie (calf) and Oscar Adams (back) have all joined the main group for full training this pre-season.
Other injury concerns for St Kilda are star forward Max King, who underwent surgery on his shoulder last month and currently faces an unknown timeframe for his return, and midfielder Zak Jones, who is on the track while nursing a calf issue.
St Kilda will open their 2023 AFL season against Fremantle in Round 1, hosting the Dockers at Marvel Stadium on Sunday, March 19.