But at least they’ll have close to their best team on the park, led by their skipper and bright hope for the future.
Midfielder Bryce Gibbs says he expects captain Marc Murphy – missing through the club’s pre-season fixtures – and No.1 draft pick Jacob Weitering to run out on Thursday night against the Tigers.
Dale Thomas is the only established Blue unavailable for the match after receiving a one-week suspension for striking Sydney’s Jeremy Laidler.
Gibbs himself will return to AFL action for the first time since last July after a pectoral injury ended his 2015 season early.
Given the long lead-up time, Gibbs is entitled to be bullish on last year’s wooden spooners starting 2016 brightly.
“No questions about it, we’re going out there to win,” he said on Monday morning.
Whether the upbeat talk is just bluster remains to be seen, but for now there’s plenty of positivity emanating from Princes Park.
“We’ve been waiting six months for it,” Gibbs said.
“There’s a bit of relief that it’s here, a bit of excitement. A new group. A young group.
“We’d be lying if we said [round one] doesn’t have a little bit more edge on it than any other week.”
Gibbs, a former No.1 draft pick himself, said he was at a loss to give Weitering advice ahead of his debut given the 18-year-old’s maturity.
“If anything he’s probably the one giving me advice. He’s got a very old head on his shoulders,” Gibbs said.
“He’s a very mature kid and taking everything in his stride.”
Draftee forward Harry McKay is only name on the long-term injury list, ruled out for 10 weeks with a back injury.
His omission weakens an already below-par forward line which kicked just 17 goals in three NAB Challenge matches, but Gibbs said the Blues would have potency on Thursday night.
“We’ve got many options,” he insisted.
“Everyone from the forward line to the midfield will be looking to hit the scoreboard.”
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