FREMANTLE can cover the loss of Michael Johnson with youngster Alex Pearce provided its midfield pressure is up to scratch, according to Dockers coach Ross Lyon.
The top-of-the-ladder Dockers have become slightly vulnerable in defence after a spate of untimely injuries. Johnson tore his hamstring early in last Friday night's loss to Richmond, and is set to miss eight to 10 weeks.
Zac Dawson (broken thumb) and Alex Silvagni (hamstring) are still well over a month away from returning, leaving second-year defender Pearce as the man to step into the breach.
Pearce made his AFL debut in round six against Essendon, and also played in round seven while Luke McPharlin was out with calf tightness. He hasn't played at any level since due to back bruising, but Lyon confirmed he is the man likely to come in this week to replace Johnson against Gold Coast.
"We know he can really play a bit, but he's going to get beaten at times," Lyon said on Wednesday morning.
"Like anything, if you don't limit supply and pressure supply it doesn't matter who is there.
"Luke McPharlin can get exposed quickly as well. It's a wonderful opportunity. Hopefully he'll get a run at it. But he hasn't got it locked down. He's going to have to perform.
"We've got (Matt) Taberner. We've got Tanner Smith who we can elevate from the rookie list. So we've got a few options there. It's not all doom and gloom. But we acknowledge we would love to have Michael playing. But we'll be fine without him."
Lyon confirmed Lee Spurr would also come back into the side to face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Saturday after he was a late withdrawal last week with a cork in the lower leg.
The Dockers have the bye following the long road trip to Queensland and then two consecutive home games against Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions.
Lyon was asked whether there was any temptation to rest veteran skipper Matthew Pavlich this week to give him two weeks off and a month at home during the middle part of the season, but he said resting players at this stage of the season was not an option.
"The last time I looked at my coaching record we pick the best available and we need to get a win," Lyon said.
"Matthew is keen to play. He trained yesterday. If Matthew needed a rest he wouldn't have trained yesterday.
"There's a lot made of resting players and that. There have been a few unique circumstances where clubs have been in a position to do that.
"Clearly when we've been in a good position we've done it. Going into the St Kilda game (round 23, 2013) where we really rested 10.
"So if that opportunity arises and we're in that position … but we're 9-1 and the whips are cracking and everyone is trying to get a great position. We see it as the longest road trip, a really difficult challenge, so it's all hands on deck."
Lyon said the loss to Richmond last week was an aberration, adding the Dockers were well aware of the areas they need to correct.
"I think there are 17 other teams who would love to be 9-1, so that tells us we are doing a lot right so we are certainly not panicking," Lyon said.
"Our work rate was a bit down without the ball, but it was our ball movement to be honest. We've been spreading the ball really well, but we were just stagnant and slow and straight-line. To be truthful the review has been about ball movement, not defence."