MELBOURNE has ruled key forward Mitch Clark out of its round one clash with St Kilda.
There was hope that Clark would be fit to lead the Demons' forward line in the opening round, but the club has come to the realisation that he has not had an adequate preparation.
The serious foot injury that kept Clark sidelined for almost the whole of 2013 is a thing of the past, but a niggling hamstring injury has not settled in time.
"Mitch won't be playing round one, he hasn't got enough (training) load in at all," Melbourne football manager Josh Mahoney told AFL.com.au.
The Demons are likely to be light on for tall options in the forward line early in the season, with Chris Dawes on a similar timeframe to Clark.
Clark is yet to join in full training but will be running in the next fortnight before doing his best to be available for selection.
That means extra responsibility will be heaped on 19-year-old forward Jesse Hogan, who will be Melbourne's key option up forward alongside Jeremy Howe and Jack Fitzpatrick.
Dawes and ruckmen Mark Jamar and Max Gawn will not play in the Demons' final practice match against Hawthorn at Casey Fields this Saturday.
"There's a few of our tall players, at this stage, that we'll take a week to two weeks with, so Chris Dawes will be one of those. As will Mark Jamar," Mahoney said.
"Max Gawn has progressed well and we expect him to be able to play a game in the next week or so."
Midfielder Jack Viney will play his first game of the season against the Hawks after spending some time in the rehabilitation group after the Christmas break.
Viney may be used more at half-forward or on the wing this season, with coach Paul Roos keen to ease some of the load on the 19-year-old.
Utility Cameron Pedersen (hamstring) will also return in the game against the Hawks, while Jimmy Toumpas has been given the all clear – provided he gets through training on Thursday – after copping a head-knock from Billie Smedts in the NAB Challenge game against the Cats.
Exciting youngster Jay Kennedy-Harris will also play against the Hawks.
Demons co-captain Nathan Jones said Jay Kennedy-Harris – who booted three goals in the club's opening NAB Challenge game against Richmond – was firming for round one against the Saints.
"I reckon he's a big chance. I've been pretty excited by his pre-season and he had a pretty game in the NAB Challenge," Jones told AFL.com.au.
"I think he's the best prepared. He had almost a full pre-season, so that gives him the greatest opportunity."
Mahoney said important defender Colin Garland (ankle) is still 3-4 weeks from making his return.
Luke Tapscott, who injured the medial ligament in his knee in the club's intra-club match a fortnight ago, is recovering well and the club expects him to available to play next week.