MELBOURNE’S Lauren Pearce will face a delayed start to the 2020 NAB AFLW season due to a knee injury.
The 2019 All Australian ruck, who underwent an arthroscope on her knee at the end of the VFLW season, will require further surgery prior to the Christmas break.
At this stage, she looks like missing the first three to four matches of the eight-round season.
"Lauren had scans earlier in the week, and they revealed some unstable cartilage in her knee," AFLW Football Operations Manager Daniel McPherson told Melbourne Media.
"She will go in for minor surgery on Thursday afternoon to have it cleaned up, and will face some time in rehab as a result."
Losing Pearce is a huge blow as there's no readymade replacement.
The Demons have traditionally used young key forward Eden Zanker as a second ruck, with the only other 180cm-plus option being fellow spearhead Tegan Cunningham, who would leave a big hole in attack.
Pearce was also in hot form, having won the VFLW best and fairest medal while playing for Darebin.
"We will know more after Lauren’s had the procedure, but we’re looking at about an eight week recovery at this stage," McPherson said.
"Although she will miss the first month of the competition, we’ll be looking to have her back in time to play an important role for us in the back half of the season."