It seemed inevitable from the moment Adam Tomlinson clutched his knee and Melbourne have confirmed an ACL tear for the popular defender.
Tomlinson cut a forlorn figure during the undefeated Demons' hard-fought 30-point AFL win against winless North Melbourne on Sunday.
The former Greater Western Sydney utility went down in the first quarter as he attempted to corral Kangaroos big man Tom Campbell.
A tearful Tomlinson was quickly substituted off and consoled by teammates on the bench, knowing he would likely miss the rest of the season.
The 27-year-old has played a key role in Melbourne's rise to the top of the ladder and their best start to a season since going 8-0 in 1965.
"This is unfortunate news for Adam, who has been an integral part of our backline this season," Melbourne's football performance manager Alan Richardson said.
"Adam is a highly respected member of the playing group and a fantastic mentor for our younger players.
"He is extremely diligent in every aspect of his preparation, and we know that Adam will attack his rehabilitation and recovery with this mindset."
Meanwhile, experienced midfielder Jack Viney will miss up to three weeks with a toe injury after being a late withdrawal against the Kangaroos.