Reigning Wodonga Diamonds best and fairest winner Nikola Bukvic will miss the first eight weeks of the season after a red card in this year’s Andronicos Cup.
His teammate Damien Ferrara was also sent off moments later in the clash against Wangaratta and will miss three weeks, a game Diamonds needed to win to make the pre-season final.
Bukvic’s prior record was believed to be the major factor in the length of the ban, but certainly caught Diamonds’ coach James Dexter off guard.
Dexter said the club can appeal it, but doesn’t think it will make any difference.
“It happened last year as well, we lost two players for the first game,” Dexter said.
“There was nothing in both incidents and we end up getting slapped with eight weeks for Nikola and three weeks for Damien.
“There’s no video evidence and Wang offered to help by doing a letter, but it’s our word against the ref and the ref usually wins.
“Nikola won our best and fairest last year and is one of our keys, but we’ll just have to bring someone else in.”
In a further blow, star striker Jarrod Herzina will miss the entire season after suffering another major knee injury.
“He was training really well and had already got through two practice matches, but with five minutes to go in a training session, down he went,” Dexter said.
“But we’ve got a pretty strong list, the kids are a year older now and know what it’s about.”
Diamonds kick-off their 2018 campaign against Albury Hotspurs at Aloysius Park on Sunday.