THEY both played in last year's grand final, but the 2013 season looks to be over before it starts for Sydney young gun Alex Johnson and Hawthorn's Matt Suckling.
Scans today are expected to confirm the worst for Johnson after teammates heard a "snap" before he slumped to the ground in the first quarter of the NAB Cup match against the Gold Coast in Blacktown on Saturday.
The club's medical staff believe the talented defender has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.
Nick Smith or Martin Mattner will be under consideration to come in for the club's final trial match against Port Adelaide this week, but co-captain Jarrad McVeigh said Johnson would be almost irreplaceable.
"He's that good height, he's fit, he's fast, so you can't replace him," McVeigh admitted.
"But we've got guys that will certainly step up and will get their opportunity this week and in the weeks to come to cement a spot in the team."
Suckling yesterday learned he had ruptured the ACL in his right knee in Saturday's match against Richmond in Launceston.
The 24-year-old's knee buckled underneath him during the third quarter and he is expected to undergo a traditional knee reconstruction, ruling him out for the season.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said the club had no option to promote a player from the rookie list and continue with its preparation for the round one clash against Geelong and the rest of the season.
"As disappointing as it is for the player - and it's shattering, because it's 12 months out of footy - but you've just got to forge ahead," Clarkson said.
"There's no other way, both for the club and the player."
While Sydney and Hawthorn were counting their losses yesterday, Brisbane and Carlton began preparations for Friday's NAB Cup grand final at Etihad Stadium in what will be a repeat of the 2007 pre-season decider.
The Blues, who had finished with the wooden spoon in the 2006 season, won that match 2.12.7 (97) to 0.10.12 (72).
This time around both teams no doubt hope the 2013 season proper is more successful than 2007 turned out to be - Brisbane went on to finish 10th and Carlton was 15th.
Lions coach Michael Voss was furious after his team beat Collingwood on Saturday night to earn its place in the final, not because of the result, but because the AFL decided the match would be played in Melbourne.
Even Magpies coach Nathan Buckley was bemused, saying Brisbane had earned the right to play the final in Queensland by being the only unbeaten team.
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