Steven May out injured as Dees take on 'Dinosaur Dogs'
Injury-hit Melbourne have lost star defender Steven May for their AFL season opener against the Western Bulldogs as a host of clubs prepare to unveil fresh faces in round one.
Two of last year's top three draft picks will make their debut, with young guns Will Ashcroft and Harry Sheezel confirmed to line up for Brisbane and North Melbourne respectively.
But No.1 selection Aaron Cadman will have to wait after failing to squeeze his way into a tall GWS forward line.
A tight calf muscle has sidelined May in a huge blow for the Demons as they prepare for a meeting with the 'Dinosaur Dogs' at the MCG on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs' tall forward line poses a threat with recruit Rory Lobb (207cm) joining Sam Darcy (208cm), Aaron Naughton (196cm) and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (197cm) in attack.
"Steven has recently experienced some tightness in his calf and after another session today, we have made the decision not to take any risks," Melbourne football boss Alan Richardson said in a statement.
"We will be in a better position next week to understand how Steven is responding to his rehabilitation program, but at this stage we expect him to be available for selection in round two."
May's premiership teammates Jack Viney (knee), Bayley Fritsch (foot) and Christian Salem (thyroid) are also out of action.
Adam Tomlinson will partner Jake Lever in the Dees' defence, with Judd McVee and Bailey Laurie to debut for Simon Goodwin's side.
Star Geelong forward Tom Hawkins was named for Friday night's blockbuster against Collingwood, overcoming a foot injury, but the premiers are without Mitch Duncan and Jack Bowes because of calf issues.
The Magpies picked off-season recruits Tom Mitchell, Dan McStay and Bobby Hill for the MCG clash and have stuck with last season's successful ruck-forward pairing of Darcy Cameron and Mason Cox.
Port Adelaide will unveil boom recruit and former No.1 pick Jason Horne-Francis against Brisbane on Saturday.
Fellow addition Junior Rioli is also set to play his first match in Power colours but former captain Travis Boak (ribs) remains sidelined.
Recruits Josh Dunkley, Jack Gunston and Conor McKenna will all bolster the Lions, along with father-son selection Ashcroft, as they kick off their premiership hunt.
Ben King returns for Gold Coast against Sydney on Saturday night after a strong pre-season, having missed last year with a knee injury, while the Swans are without Sam Reid (glute).
Sheezel will make his North Melbourne debut on Saturday against West Coast, who have picked Campbell Chesser, Reuben Ginbey and Noah Long for their first games.
Star Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui has been ruled out after battling achilles soreness through the pre-season.
The Kangaroos sprung a surprise for Alastair Clarkson's first game in charge, picking Tristan Xerri ahead of veteran ruckman Todd Goldstein.
GWS named Brent Daniels on an extended interchange bench for Sunday's clash with Adelaide as the unlucky small forward chases his first game since 2021 following a horror run with injury.
Young defender Max Michalanney will become the Crows' first father-son draftee to play a senior game when he makes his AFL debut.