Sebastopol will be without defensive linchpin Tony Lockyer for its Ballarat Football League season opener against Ballarat under lights at Marty Busch Reserve on Saturday.
The Burra assistant coach is expected to miss the opening two games while recovering from surgery for a broken thumb.
Coach Leigh Hutchinson said Lockyer was not expected to be clear to play for about four weeks, but an interrupted start to the season for Sebastopol would soften the impact on the team.
Sebastopol has two weeks off after the first round, with a break for the Easter long weekend and bye in round two on April 27.
The Burras will resume against East Point at the Eastern Oval on May 11.
Lockyer had a huge impact on Sebastopol last season after arriving from North Ballarat Roosters in the VFL.
He was instrumental in the Burras climbing to just outside the top six and finished third in the BFL best and fairest, the Henderson Medal.
Lockyer's setback adds to Sebastopol's backline woes, with it needing to find a replacement for key defender Jack McNab.
For the second time in three seasons, the young tall is set to miss a full season.
McNab has been ruled out with a serious finger injury.
Hutchinson said McNab had had surgery, but more was required.
McNab missed 2017 after breaking a leg.
The BFL home and away season begins with all five matches on Saturday.
Reigning premier East Point is home to Lake Wendouree at the Eastern Oval, while Melton South meets Melton in a derby at Melton Recreation Reserve.
Darley plays Sunbury at Darley Park and North Ballarat City takes on Bacchus Maarsh at Mars Stadium.
Ballarat and Redan will follow up with a Good Friday clash.