After a breakout 2020 season, Ben Paton isn't expected to play much part in St Kilda's 2021 campaign.
The former Murray Bushranger, North Albury and Mitta United player suffered a broken leg during an intraclub match for the Saints on Thursday.
Medcial staff rushed to Paton's aid and he was placed on pain assistance with his left leg strapped before he was escorted from the field on a stretcher.
He was later taken in an ambulance to hospital for further treatment.
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The 22-year-old was brought down in a tackle by club staffer Jarryd Roughead, with the Hawthorn premiership player filling in for extra numbers with the Saints carrying a host of injuries.
Paton's injury left the playing group in shock.
"He's a great kid, he'll bounce back... it was pretty flattening for the group," coach Brett Ratten told AFL.com.au.
He's in good hands with our doctors. It's just disappointing that he's done a lot of work and he won't get the reward this year.St Kilda coach Brett Ratten
"With the respect and the love they've got for 'Pato' you could see the mood change. Even when we went back out, the first five minutes was pretty flat.
"He's in good hands with our doctors. It's just disappointing that he's done a lot of work and he won't get the reward this year."
The injury comes just a day after the Saints' first ruck Rowan Marshall was confirmed to have a stress reaction in his foot that will keep him off his legs for the next month and ensure he misses the early rounds of the AFL season.
Paton's injury is the second broken leg at Moorabbin this year with captain Jarryn Geary having earlier sustained a leg break.
The small defender played all 19 games in 2020 as a first-choice option against some of the best small forwards.