MELBOURNE'S injury-hit summer has continued, with lively midfielder Lily Mithen ruled out of the first three matches of the season with an ankle injury.
The 21-year-old suffered an ankle injury during the Dees' practice match win over Collingwood, and initial reports from the club suggested she would be right to go for round one, but Mithen has since needed surgery.
She joins a rapidly growing injury list, with Katherine Smith, Shae Sloane (both torn ACLs, out for the season) and Lauren Pearce (knee, three weeks) already on the sidelines.
Bianca Jakobsson has also withdrawn from the season due to work commitments with Victoria Police.
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Three other Demons are facing a race against time to be declared fit for the round one clash against North Melbourne, with forwards Tegan Cunningham, Kate Hore and Ainslie Kemp needing to pass tests in order to play.
Cunningham has been battling a quad complaint for several weeks now and is a key focal point of the forward line, especially with Eden Zanker now holding down the ruck in the absence of Pearce.
Hore is recovering from a minor shoulder injury sustained in Melbourne's match simulation against Geelong on January 18.
Kemp – having forgone surgery on a torn ACL in June – is facing a much smaller injury concern this time around, rehabilitating from an ankle injury picked up against Collingwood.
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Teams are able to promote a train-on player if they are unable to name a squad of 23 players (out of a list of 30) for a match.
Adelaide premiership forward Sarah Perkins, experienced campaigner Kirby Bentley and Casey Demons ruck Bridie Winbanks are among the options coach Mick Stinear has at his disposal.
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In better news for the club, Maddy Guerin (calf) and Aliesha Newman (head) have been declared fit to play after failing to finish the win over the Pies.