North Melbourne has been hit with a cruel injury blow on the eve of the season, losing key defender Ben McKay indefinitely due to a foot injury.
The 25-year-old, who has become one of North Melbourne’s most important players, pulled up sore after the Kangaroos’ practice match loss to the Western Bulldogs at Ikon Park on Saturday.
Scans revealed a bone stress reaction in his right foot, with no timeline set on his return.
It means McKay could again miss a showdown with his twin brother, Carlton forward Harry, in Round 4, continuing a long list of missed opportunities for the pair to play on each other.
McKay has played against the Blues twice since his debut in 2017, and on both occasions his brother has been out injured.
North Melbourne football boss Todd Viney said the club’s medical team would “offload” McKay’s foot over the next few weeks.
“Ben’s pre-season preparation has been seamless, so this is unfortunate news on the eve of Round 1,” general manager of football Todd Viney said.
“Our immediate focus is to ensure Ben’s symptoms settle. His rehab program will continue to evolve, with the aim to integrate him back into the training program in due course.”
The 202cm defender, who was ranked elite for intercept marks last season, comes out of contract at the end of the season and would be a restricted free agent if unsigned.
North Melbourne will be sweating on the availability of defender Aidan Corr, who returned via a VFL practice game from a calf injury last weekend, with aerial support needed for new recruit Griffin Logue ahead of the Kangaroos’ Round 1 clash against West Coast at Marvel Stadium.
McKay’s injury comes as livewire forward-midfielder Cam Zurhaar faces a battle to be fit in time for the season opener after he suffered a calf strain against the Bulldogs.
Young ruckman Callum Coleman-Jones has been ruled out of the opening rounds after he partially tore his plantar fascia in the VFL game.