BUNGAREE star Marty Dufty faces a race against time to return for finals after checks discovered a hairline fracture in one of his vertebrae.
The athletic half-back sustained the injury in the closing minutes of the round six win over Carngham-Linton, which subsequently ruled him out of the Central Highlands Football League’s country championships win over Loddon Valley the following week.
He also missed the Demons’ victory over Daylesford before the Queen’s Birthday weekend bye and is expected to remain sidelined until at least round 16.
Bungaree coach Greg Middleton said Dufty would resume running in the next couple of weeks, but would definitely return at some stage this season.
He said Dufty’s recovery would be guided by pain as much as anything.
“They (back injuries) can be bad, I guess, but this isn’t as bad as what it can be,” Middleton said.
“We will put him on ice for the bulk of it now and if we win the ones we should we should finish top four.”
Dufty, who joined the club from Nhill in 2012, has been named in the Demons’ best in three of his six appearances this season.
He leaves a Demons side that is unbeaten and on top of the ladder after the opening seven matches ahead of Saturday’s clash with ultra-competitive Ballan.
Meanwhile, Waubra welcomes back reigning Geoff Taylor Medallist Nick Sullivan for its trip to Smythesdale.
Sullivan has not played since injuring his knee in the round one win over Hepburn.
He is one of a handful of key ins for the Roos, which have been curtailed by injury and unavailability during the early part of the season, but have still managed six wins to be fourth on the ladder.