Fremantle coach Ross Lyon is adamant Michael Johnson’s slow start to the AFL finals was nothing more than a case of the flu wearing him down.
The defender missed eight games earlier this season because of a torn hamstring, while a serious back injury ruled him out of last year’s finals series.
The 30-year-old looked sore in the qualifying-final win over Sydney two weeks ago, raising fears he was carrying an injury.
But Lyon was quick to hose down any concerns ahead of Friday night’s preliminary final against Hawthorn at Domain Stadium.
“He was very crook when we played Sydney,” Lyon said of the 2013 All-Australian.
“He looked off. It certainly wasn’t his hamstring or back – he just came off a heavy flu.
“He was sore. I said, ‘Mate, do we need to sub you out?’.
“But he was fine.
“He’s in really good spirits. He trained fully (on Monday).”
With fellow defender Luke McPharlin (calf) no certainty to play again this year, Johnson shapes as a key figure in Fremantle’s quest for their maiden flag.
The Dockers made a straight-sets finals exit last year in the absence of Johnson, but they are now just one win away from reaching the 2015 grand final.
Forward Matt Taberner is expected to return against the Hawks following his five-goal display in the WAFL two weeks ago, while ruckman Jon Griffin is also a chance of earning a recall after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Tagger Ryan Crowley is free to play the Hawks after serving his 12-month ban for doping, but Lyon says the veteran is unlikely to be selected.
Hawthorn are still sweating on the fitness of forward Jack Gunston, who injured his knee and ankle in the qualifying final loss to West Coast a fortnight ago.