Fremantle will need to dig even deeper into their reserves after star duo Michael Barlow and Hayden Ballantyne joined the club’s bulging casualty ward.
Ballantyne is set to spend several weeks on the sidelines after suffering a suspected fractured cheekbone in Friday night’s 17-point AFL loss to Geelong.
And Barlow might not play again this year after injuring the AC joint in his left shoulder.
Barlow and Ballantyne will undergo scans to determine the extent of the damage.
And with veteran forward Matthew Pavlich set to be rested for next week’s clash with the Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium, Dockers coach Ross Lyon faces a tough task to find adequate replacements.
Stars such as Nat Fyfe, Michael Johnson, Aaron Sandilands, and Harley Bennell are still nursing long-term injuries.
Matt de Boer, Zac Clarke, Shane Yarran, and Darcy Tucker are among the contenders to earn recalls.
Lyon praised Ballantyne’s courage for playing on through his injury, but said it was now important to protect the 29-year-old from further damage.
The Dockers were brave against Geelong.
Fremantle led by 16 points at quarter time after rediscovering the trademark pressure that had made them a force in recent years.
And they trailed by just five points midway through the final quarter when David Mundy’s snap bounced in for a goal.
But in the end Geelong did enough to weather the storm, consigning Fremantle to their 13th loss of the year.
The Dockers face a tough run home, with their match against Gold Coast to be followed by daunting games against flag fancies Sydney, West Coast, Adelaide, GWS, and the Bulldogs.
Lyon said the gutsy performance against Geelong showed his team were capable of matching it against the best – albeit not always for four quarters.
“I have plenty of optimism about the future,” Lyon said.
“Coaches sell hope. There is no limit on us. It was a step forward.”