Star Fremantle midfielder Nat Fyfe has escaped from his “iron lung” and will play in Friday’s NAB Challenge clash with Richmond in Mandurah.
And prized recruit Harley Bennell could make his Dockers debut as early as next week despite initial fears he would miss the start of the AFL season because of ongoing calf issues.
Fyfe’s pre-season hit a snag when he ruptured a disc in his back while training in late December.
The injury setback came shortly after he had recovered from surgery to fix his fractured leg.
Initial reports suggested Fyfe could miss up to two months because of the back injury, putting him at risk of being underdone for round one.
But coach Ross Lyon was quick to poke fun at that prediction on Wednesday, confirming Fyfe would face the Tigers on Friday barring a late mishap.
“He’ll play. He got out of his iron lung,” Lyon joked.
“He’s had a full summer and he’s back early, so (the injury) couldn’t have been too bad.
“It was blown out of proportion. We understand why, he’s a very important player, reigning Brownlow medallist. But it was a mountain out of a molehill to be honest.”
Bennell has been in the rehab group for most of the summer because of a recurring calf injury.
But the former Suns midfielder has made strong progress in recent weeks, and Lyon is confident Bennell will play at least one pre-season match.
“He’ll definitely play. He’ll tell you he’s ready to go now,” Lyon said.
“We’re not rushing him, we’re building him really strongly.
“We want him to be here for five, 10 years – not five weeks.
“He’s put on five kilos, his skinfolds are as low as they’ve ever been, and he’s in really good shape.”
Veteran defender Michael Johnson will miss the match against Richmond after experiencing pain in his Achilles tendon.
Lyon said the injury wasn’t serious, with Johnson set to play in the February 28 match against Adelaide in Mount Barker.
Richmond will unleash an inexperienced side against the Dockers, with skipper Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt, Brett Deledio, Alex Rance, and Dustin Martin among the big names to sit out.
Fremantle’s squad features most of their big guns.