Geelong is confident George Burbury has escaped with less serious facial damage than first feared - although it expects confirmation the young forward's jaw is broken - after the first game of 2014 produced the year's first sickening AFL injury.
Burbury slid bravely into a second-quarter marking contest during the Cats' two-point win over Collingwood on Wednesday night, and met an oncoming knee to the face. He left the ground bloodied and in obvious distress, while trainers and officials spent much of half-time combing the turf for his teeth - which coach Chris Scott later said hadn't been knocked out after all.
"We though it was really serious," Scott said. "But the feedback from the hospital is while it's still serious and he will need surgery on his jaw, it's not as bad as first thought.
"These days they can wire jaws and get them stable pretty quickly so hopefully it's not going to be too long on the sidelines. We're hopeful he'll come back and I'm confident he will still play the same way and add something to our team.
"We had about eight trainers out there looking for his teeth but they were still in his mouth."
Scott said the upside for the 21-year-old was how good he looked up forward before the incident, and the improvement he has made. "He's a young man who has improved out of sight.
"Eighteen months ago he was the player who was furthest away from AFL football on our list and now going into this game he would have been very hard to push out of our best 22. It's not as though it's life or death in a football sense for him."
Scott praised the games of Cam Guthrie and Josh Caddy, was pleased with Billie Smedts work in defence, and indicated that Travis Varcoe has been challenged to increase his potency by winning inside as well as outside possessions.
"I guess the theory with Trav is he's such a damaging player outside the contest, if we can get him inside the contest a little bit more he might be able to get a little bit more of the ball. The idea is the same quality of impact for 20 possessions rather than 12."
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said pacy draftee Nathan Freeman (hamstring) and Tim Broomhead (broken hand) would miss several weeks, but was pleased with Jesse White's first outing in black and white which reaped five goals.
"I thought he played his role really well," Buckley said of White. "Clearly, five goals is a good return. His running patterns were strong and some of his contests to halve some aerial balls when he was outnumbered, to create opportunities for ground-level players was excellent."
Buckley said the Magpies, who led before Jordan Schoder's matchwinner with a minute to go, "would've like to have sung the song", but would learn much from the last five minutes.
"There were elements of tonight that we were really happy with. Some of our defensive structures were solid, particularly in the second half.
"Geelong are an offensive juggernaut, they really do take the game on and I thought we were able to slow them down, in that second half in particular.
"We've got a really young back six or seven and they were able to stand up quite well to the pressure in (the) most part."
Both coaches were happy with a more forgiving approach apparent from the umpires, with only 27 free kicks paid for the game and leniency given in regard to contact in marking contests.
"The overwhelming message from the umpiring department is that if they're not sure then they're not going to pay free kicks and that's great to hear," Scott said, while Buckley added that he preferred to see football that was allowed to flow.