Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe says it’s crucial his team rise to the challenge as the AFL club’s injury list grows to mammoth proportions.
The Dockers will have at least nine first-choice players unavailable when they take on GWS at Optus Stadium on Sunday, with their attack and defence particularly decimated.
Key defenders Joel Hamling (ankle) and Alex Pearce (knee) are nursing serious injuries, while fellow backmen Stephen Hill, Griffin Logue and Tobe Watson are all sidelined with hamstring complaints.
Key forward Rory Lobb will miss about half the season with a knee injury, while Michael Walters (hamstring), Mitch Crowden (calf), Bailey Banfield (ankle) and Liam Henry (calf) are others absent from the attack.
Midfielder Darcy Tucker (hamstring) is at least three weeks away from returning.
Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir handed ruckman Lloyd Meek a debut last week, and defender Heath Chapman will debut on Sunday.
Chapman is one of four changes to the team this week, with Nathan Wilson, Michael Frederick and Sean Darcy all fit to return.
Connor Blakely was dropped after the Dockers lost to Melbourne by 22 points last week, and history suggests they will struggle to make the finals if they drop to 0-2 with a loss to GWS.
Fyfe was bullish about his team’s finals hopes over the summer, and he said it was important to adapt to the injury challenges.
“A month ago, there were so many reasons to be excited about what this team could achieve in 2021,” Fyfe wrote in an online letter to fans.
“But a round-one loss and injuries to key players is obviously not an ideal start.
“It’s expected that these challenges will happen through a season and it’s crucial we rise to this one and adapt our system to whoever is on the park.”
The Giants also have a series of key players on their injury list, headlined by former Docker Jesse Hogan (quad).
Lachie Whitfield (liver) has no timetable set on his return, while Adam Kennedy (shoulder) and Braydon Preuss (shoulder) will miss more than half the season.
The Giants have regained goalsneak Brent Daniels from injury and recalled inexperienced Zach Sproule for his first game of the season.