Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has urged fans to be patient with the club’s rebuild, saying it could take about four years before his side are in a position to challenge for the flag again.
The Dockers are set to overhaul their list at the end of the season, with more than a dozen players expected to be shown the door.
Fremantle’s hierarchy have decided a rebuild is necessary following a disastrous 2016 campaign that has seen the club go from premiership fancies to competition easybeats.
With just one round remaining, the Dockers sit in 16th spot with a 3-18 win-loss record.
Matthew Pavlich will retire after Sunday’s clash with the Bulldogs at Domain Stadium, while players such as Hayden Ballantyne, Nick Suban, Michael Barlow, Zac Clarke, Garrick Ibbotson, Ed Langdon, and Chris Mayne could join rival clubs via trades or free agency.
A host of other players are set to be delisted, giving Lyon the first chance in his coaching career to rebuild a list.
The Dockers had previously hoped the return of star trio Nat Fyfe, Michael Johnson, and Harley Bennell from injury would allow the club to make a swift rebound.
But Lyon warned that is unlikely to be the case.
The 10th-year coach pointed to the Western Bulldogs’ recent rebuild as a typical example of how long it might take.
The Bulldogs featured in preliminary finals in 2009 and 2010, before deciding to rebuild after crashing to 10th in 2011.
The club broke their four-year finals absence when they finished sixth on the ladder last year.
Lyon is contracted until 2020, and says he’ll probably need most of that time to get the team back into finals mode.
“We understand we’re rebuilding. That’s on the agenda,” Lyon said on Friday.
“I’ve certainly got a time frame. Everyone hopes to do it quickly. But I think history tells you it’s going to take some time.
“Basically (for) everyone it’s about in their fourth year isn’t it.
“We don’t know exactly where we’re at. It’s a moving feast. There’s basically seven or eight players under 20 games again. We’re on a journey.”
This year will be just the second time a Lyon-coached side has missed out on the finals.
The only other time was in 2007, when the Saints finished ninth in Lyon’s debut as a coach.
Some experts have doubted Lyon’s ability to be able to rebuild a list.
But the 49-year-old is confident he can do it, and is looking forward to the challenge.
Lyon will head to the United States during the off-season to take part in an “authentic leadership” course at Harvard.
Hawthorn’s Alastair Clarkson, Geelong’s Chris Scott, and St Kilda’s Alan Richardson are other AFL coaches who have done the course.