Gold Coast young gun Matt Rowell has avoided surgery on his injured left knee but is still expected to miss the first half of the AFL season.
The Suns confirmed on Tuesday that the 19-year-old had sustained a minor tear to the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) after falling heavily in a first-quarter tackle in Sunday's round one loss to West Coast in Perth.
While the injury won't require surgery, Suns football manager Jon Haines said Rowell will wear a brace for six weeks with a return to play unlikely for another four to six weeks after that.
"We expect him to be playing in the back half of the year so, all things being equal, it's a reasonable outcome," Haines said.
Sunday's match was Rowell's first AFL appearance after his breakout debut campaign in 2020 was ended by a serious shoulder injury against Geelong last July.
The 2019 No.1 draft pick had made a stellar start to his career, starring in his first four matches before suffering the injury against the Cats.
Haines was positive Rowell would handle his latest setback well despite the obvious disappointment.
"He's flat. He loves the game more than most," Haines said.
"But at the same time he's no different to any other player who's in rehab.
"He'll jump in with the rest of the rehab group and hit that really strongly like he did the last time."
Despite Rowell's blistering start to his AFL career, Haines said it was important to keep the teenager's experience and expectation in perspective.
"The level of interest in him in this particular case is probably disproportionate to the injury itself and it's disproportionate to the stage of his career," Haines said.
"At the end of the day he's played six games and he's entering his second season.
"From our point of view and certainly from Matt's point of view he wants to be treated as as another player in the Suns line-up and that's how we treat him, as one of the 49 on our list."
Ben Ainsworth looms as the most likely replacement for Rowell in the Suns' midfield for Saturday's home clash with North Melbourne, having missed the trip west due to a tight hamstring.