PORT Fairy expects a number of top-liners, including former VFL footballer Matt Sully, on-field leader Colin Harwood and in-and-under midfielder Andy McMeel, to miss its Hampden league season-opener.
Others sidelined for round one against premiership fancy North Warrnambool Eagles on April 2 include reliable defender Josh Gunning, emerging tall Jake Bartlett and the versatile Kurt Smith along with George MacDonald, Oliver Myers and Jake Hamilton.
The absentees' list is a concern for coach Winis Imbi but he is backing his team, including some promising teenagers, to embrace the challenge in the early rounds of the season.
Those in line to debut in 2022 include ruckman Seth Beardsley and small forward Radush Mohan.
Imbi, speaking to The Standard after the Seagulls' final practice match against Wimmera league outfit Ararat at Gardens Oval on Saturday, said he was pleased to see some young players emerge during pre-season.
"We have a 15-year-old there in Seth Beardsley who performed really well in the ruck," he said.
"He has a wonderful appetite to compete, he covers the ground really well.
"He's a jumper and he doesn't lose that jump throughout the game.
"The young kids we had out there, like Oscar Pollock (who debuted last season) and who has made the (NAB League) Rebels' squad, we were playing him out of position the first three quarters but then he played through the middle.
"He has to work his way into the midfield because it's full at the moment. That's really good for our depth and a challenge for him as he grows.
"Young forward Radush has a lot of tricks. He could eventually be one of the top-line small forwards in Hampden. He's only a year 11 kid.
"He has a lot of growth ahead of him."
Imbi said the Seagulls did have "a bit of an unhealthy list" at the moment.
"We are going to be patient," he said. "We'll have half a side to come back in.
"When our list gets healthy, that's fine, but Port has always had talent and it's about playing a certain way.
"These boys can all come back into the side but if they are not playing the way we feel means we'll be able to win games of football and be competitive and win finals ultimately then you go back to the same problem - it's just a talent-based game.
"We want to evolve to a stage where it's talent and system. That is where you will get some real sustained growth."
Those who didn't play against Ararat in contention for round one include Sandy Robinson, James Duncan, Aaron Williams and James van der Aa.
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