FREMANTLE'S rebuild could take up to four years, in a similar manner to the Western Bulldogs between 2011 and 2015, coach Ross Lyon says.
The concession represents a significant shift for the Dockers as they had been positive about their ability to bounce back quickly in 2017 with the return of Nat Fyfe, Michael Johnson, Harley Bennell and Alex Pearce from long-term injuries.
Lyon told Fox Footy in July that the Dockers would like to play finals in 2017, saying, "we think it's possible". Chief executive Steve Rosich and senior players have also publicly stated that the Dockers could bounce back to be more than competitive in 2017.
But Lyon tempered all of that on Friday, just two days out from Matthew Pavlich's farewell game against the Western Bulldogs at Domain Stadium on Sunday.
"We understand we're rebuilding," Lyon said.
"That's on the agenda. I've certainly got a time frame. All the studies are done on how long we take.
"Everyone hopes to do it quickly but if you look at the Bulldogs (playing preliminary finals) in 2009-10, then in Rocket's last year (2011), they started playing the kids.
"And they starting playing finals last year, which is 2015, so it's 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, so it's four years and played in their fifth year.
"West Coast went down for a few years and then came back. We understand where we're at. We haven't changed our messaging. There's basically seven or eight players under 20 games again. We're on a journey."
The Dockers are set to undertake a significant turnover in their list. Lyon's press conference came immediately on the back of a list management meeting with the club's list manager Brad Lloyd.
Lyon conceded he had never undertaken a rebuild in his 10-year coaching career and there have been external doubts about his ability to do it.
But he signed a long-term contract extension to remain as Dockers coach until the end of 2020 and his reset of the club's expectations on Friday fits in with that timeline.
"I think history tells you it's going to take some time," he said.
"But I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I've never had that full opportunity like this.
"I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to build it. I've seen other clubs go through it. But then it's a bit like Richmond, you get your four or five years – or Melbourne – and you start to get judged.
"We'll work through it over the next few years, that will be fantastic."
Lyon confirmed he would head to Melbourne during the finals to work with Fox Footy as an analyst.
Lyon also said he would head to the United States during the off-season to undertake an "authentic leadership" course at Harvard. Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson, Geelong coach Chris Scott and St Kilda coach Alan Richardson have all participated in the course previously. Lyon said that trip been planned as part of his personal development back in January of this year.