Fremantle midfielder Nat Fyfe will have a plate inserted into his troublesome left leg after fracturing his fibula in Friday night’s AFL preliminary final loss to Hawthorn.
Fyfe was troubled by inflammation in the leg during the last five weeks of the season, and disaster struck early in the grand final qualifier when he clashed legs with Hawthorn’s Brian Lake.
That incident left Fyfe limping for the remainder of the match, with subsequent scans on Saturday revealing he had fractured his leg.
Fyfe battled through the pain to collect 24 disposals, nine clearances and six tackles to be among his team’s best.
The 24-year-old will undergo surgery in coming days, but the Dockers are confident the setback won’t delay his start to the 2016 pre-season.
Fyfe is the warm favourite to win this year’s Brownlow medal, but his subdued second half to the season could cost him the prestigious award.
The West Australian battled to recapture his best form after copping a heavy corked thigh, courtesy of a Sam Mitchell knee in round 15.
The injury slightly changed Fyfe’s running style which, in turn, led to a groin injury that sidelined him for two rounds.
Fyfe also missed the final two rounds of the home-and-away season because of the inflammation in his lower left leg – a condition similar to shin splints.
Meanwhile, coach Ross Lyon will consider playing Fyfe predominantly as a forward next year as the club searches for a way to build an attack capable of winning a premiership.
The Dockers managed just 10 goals in Friday’s loss to the Hawks, continuing a trend in which the club’s lack of attacking firepower has come back to bite them when it’s mattered most.
Fremantle booted 10 goals against Sydney and 11 against Port Adelaide during their straight-sets exit from last year’s finals series, while they kicked a wayward 8.14 in the 2013 grand final loss to Hawthorn.
The Dockers’ bid to improve their attack will get even harder if skipper Matthew Pavlich announces his retirement as expected.
If that eventuates, it would leave fringe forward Matt Taberner as the club’s leading spearhead.
This year, 177cm goalsneak Michael Walters led the club’s goalkicking with 44 majors.
Taberner managed just 14 goals in 15 games.
Fyfe has established himself as one of the best midfielders in the competition.
And he has proven equally skilful up forward, where his strong marking and high leaping make him a nightmare match-up for opposition defences.
Lyon is keen to lure a ready-made spearhead to the club in time for next season, with the Dockers eager to trade heavily or explore free agency options.
Greater Western Sydney spearhead Cam McCarthy is high up on their hit list.
But if that plan falls through, Lyon could switch Fyfe from the midfield into attack.
“I don’t see us with a salary cap advantage to go and get a power forward for $1 million,” Lyon said.
“That doesn’t happen, so we are going to have to find a way to get more front-end talent through.
“We might get a midfielder through and play Fyfe forward.
“We acknowledge that we’d like to improve our offence.
“We would like more players of the calibre of Michael Walters and what Matthew (Pavlich) has produced at his best.”
The Dockers are in the race to secure former Gold Coast midfielder Harley Bennell, who is also weighing up his options in Melbourne.