St Kilda have copped an enormous blow to their hopes of ascending the AFL ladder under Ross Lyon next season, with key forward Max King ruled out for much of the 2023 season just days into pre-season training. It marks a bitter blow for the Saints, with King not expected to return from a shoulder reconstruction until several months into next season.
King reportedly injured his shoulder in a marking contest during pre-season training, having returned to St Kilda just two weeks earlier after the end of last season. The 22-year-old is expected to undergo surgery in the coming days.
A proper timeline for his return will be established after surgery, but it is expected to be a long-term recovery for King, who is pivotal to St Kilda's forward line. Drafted fourth overall by the Saints in 2018, King missed his entire rookie season after tearing his ACL and requiring a knee reconstruction.
St Kilda football boss Geoff Walsh said there was no doubt King's injury was a bitter blow for the club. The timing couldn't be worse for the Saints, with the pressure on to show improvement under the returning Lyon.
"This is an extremely disappointing setback for Max," said in a club statement. "He had come back for pre-season in really great condition, which is a credit to his professionalism; a trait we know will stand him in good stead as he works through his rehab over the next few months.
"The recovery and rehabilitation period for this injury will be a number of months, which we will provide updates on as he progresses through his rehab program. Suffice to say his return to play will not be until the season is well underway."
St Kilda will open their 2023 campaign with Lyon back at the helm in a grudge match against Fremantle - the club that sacked him three years ago - at Marvel Stadium on March 19.
St Kilda left to rue Max King injury after off-season chaos
Though the Saints have options in their forward line, the absence of King is expected to require a major shift in game-planning with the high-marking forward out of action. The likes of Tim Membrey, Josh Battle, and Jack Hayes will all need to step up to replace king's club leading 55 goals in 2022.
A horror finish to 2022 led to a football department review which resulted in Brett Ratten being sacked as coach. Ratten's axing in October came just three months after he was given a contract extension.
Lyon, who coached St Kilda to grand finals in 2009 and 2010 during his first stint at the club, was appointed as Ratten's successor 10 days later. The confusing process in which the Saints recruited Lyon back to the club attracted significant criticism.
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