Star Western Bulldogs forward Josh Bruce could be out until the 2023 AFL season in a devastating blow for the premiership fancies.
Scans have revealed the 29-year-old suffered an ACL injury to his left knee in the dying seconds of Sunday's upset loss to Essendon.
Bruce will undergo a knee reconstruction and the Bulldogs will have to replace a player who has kicked 48 goals in his second season at the club.
His recovery will take up to 12 months, potentially ruling him out for all of next season as well as the rest of this year.
"We're devastated for him and will do everything we can to support him through this period," Bulldogs head of medicine Chris Bell said. "We will work through a plan with Josh for surgery over the next couple of days."
Bruce struggled during 2020 in his first season with the Bulldogs after moving from St Kilda but had returned to his best this year.
He sits equal second in the Coleman Medal standings, behind Carlton star Harry McKay (58 goals).
Bruce has formed a potent attacking partnership with Aaron Naughton, while No.1 pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan has added extra potency since making his AFL debut in round 17 against Sydney.