INJURED playmaker Stephen Hill has been ruled out of Fremantle's round one clash with North Melbourne, while the Dockers won't put a timeframe on Jesse Hogan's return from a navicular stress fracture despite the star recruit's encouraging recent progress.
After a horror run of soft-tissue injuries restricted him to just 13 games in 2018, Hill underwent an operation to remove scar tissue in his left quad in December.
The 28-year-old is one of several players the Dockers have earmarked to cover the considerable midfield hole left by Lachie Neale's departure to Brisbane in last year's NAB AFL Trade Period.
PLAY AFL FANTASY Make your team now
But Fremantle coach Ross Lyon told AFL.com.au on Friday Hill was not expected to return until round three.
"Stephen Hill ran into that quad trouble early in the pre-season and went in and had the operation to remove the scar tissue. It was pretty significant and pretty rare," Lyon said.
"So I'm a bit nervous about that for our midfield because it's the area where we lost Lachie Neale.
"Stephen won't be back until about round three, which really does hurt us."
Hogan joined the Dockers last October with a pre-existing navicular injury that had sidelined him from Melbourne's finals campaign.
Lyon said the "bona fide A-grade key forward" had taken encouraging steps in his rehabilitation, but the serious nature of navicular injuries made it hard to predict a return date.
"Jesse Hogan is coming along really well, he's doing about 50 per cent of full training," Lyon said.
"It's a very serious injury and I've said to Jesse, 'When you're right, you'll play.'
"If that's round 10, he'll play round 10. If it's round 18, if it's round one , if it's JLT (that's when he'll play).
FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game
"Because it's such a long-term (injury) … it can change so quickly on the positive or the negative side and I don't get caught up on it.
"But he's progressing really well, so that's all we can ask. He's come in and he trains hard, he's going quite well.
"When it exactly is (he returns), I couldn't quite tell you."
Lyon is also hopeful Harley Bennell is finally poised to overcome the horror run of soft-tissue injuries that have restricted the former No.2 draft pick to just two games in his three seasons at Fremantle.
The Dockers coach said Bennell suffered a minor hiccup at training last week when he pulled up with calf tightness, but had otherwise enjoyed his best pre-season in years.
WHO MAKES FINALS? Do the 2019 Ladder Predictor
"He's on a program where we're building him up to three sessions a week. As he said, he's done more this year than he's done in four years – his body has allowed him to," Lyon said.
"He still hasn't been able to do the exact level of work of Andrew (Brayshaw) or Nat Fyfe, but he's not far off.
"I wasn't at a session on a Friday and Peter Bell rang me and they were all raving about how he trained. So it was exciting for Harley and us, but there's plenty of work to go.
"But if he's fit he's clearly good enough to play."