Essendon have suffered another major blow in the lead-up to the AFL season, with key forward Joe Daniher to miss at least four matches with a calf injury.
Daniher, 25, was kicked in the calf at training on Thursday and will be sidelined for at least four weeks, including next weekend's Round 1 clash against Greater Western Sydney.
The 2017 All-Australian did not play after Round 7 last year due to a serious groin injury.
The Bombers will also be without key defender Cale Hooker for the opening four rounds of the season after he suffered a calf injury earlier in March.
"Joe was progressing strongly in his recovery from an unrelated injury, so this soft-tissue setback is clearly disappointing for both him and the club," Essendon general manager of football Dan Richardson said on Friday.
"However, Joe remains positive and is committed towards his rehabilitation program as he works towards a return to the senior side early in the upcoming home-and-away season.
"While disappointing, this injury provides an opportunity for another forward to step up in Joe's absence and as a team, we remain focused on our preparation for next week's season opener against Greater Western Sydney."
Daniher played in both of Essendon's JLT Series pre-season matches.