MELBOURNE'S bid to return to the finals after an 11-year absence has been dealt a huge blow with All Australian ruckman Max Gawn to miss up to three months after hamstring surgery.
Gawn saw a hamstring surgeon on Monday to determine the best course of action after scans revealed some tendon damage in his right hamstring.
"There's a gap between the bone and the tendon so it's probably safer and quicker to get surgery," Gawn said on Monday after meeting with the surgeon.
Gawn injured his hamstring while lunging to tackle Geelong captain Joel Selwood in the Demons' 29-point loss at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Melbourne originally thought Gawn had suffered a standard hamstring injury, which would have only seen him miss 3-4 weeks.
But scans on Sunday showed tendon involvement in his hamstring and therefore, after the surgeon's advice, the need to have an operation on Tuesday to repair the tear.
Gawn said his initial thought was the injury was at the minor end of the scale.
"Early on you can get referred pain in the belly (of the hamstring)," Gawn said.
"The physios here treated it where the pain was in the middle of my hamstring and that's where they thought it was.
"They always had that shade of grey, just because of the history that I've had, that it might be something else so it was lucky we got the scan."
Gawn, who has suffered four separate hamstring injuries in the past, does not definitively know how long he will miss.
"I'd say it's probably that three-month mark," Gawn said.
"I don't know anything about hamstrings or rehabbing them but I'd say around that 12-week mark."
However, former North Melbourne star Nick Dal Santo returned to the field after having the same procedure back in 2015 in just seven weeks.
"The surgeon was really positive," Gawn said.
"He's had a few of them in the past.
"I'm not Nick Dal Santo. I'm obviously a lot taller and I've done four hamstrings so there is a positive side to it as well but there's also a cautious side."
Gawn has backed teammate Jake Spencer to shoulder the ruck duties in his absence with Melbourne facing Fremantle and Aaron Sandilands at the MCG on Easter Saturday.
"He's the right age for a ruckman," Gawn said.
"I've got full confidence if he gets the nod against Sandilands this week that he'll play well.
"He's always been a competitive beast. I see him more along the lines of the (Shane) Mumford-type player, similar to what (Braydon) Preuss is doing at North Melbourne.
"His ability to improve was just around the gameplan and the structures and all of that.
"He's been around the system now for (around) 10 years so I think we'll back him in."