FREMANTLE is preparing for the prospect of missing key defender Joel Hamling for the first half of the season, with football manager Peter Bell only "hopeful" he can return before the midway point of 2020.
Hamling, who finished seventh in the Dockers' best and fairest last season, underwent surgery for a dislocated left ankle on Monday, one week after suffering the injury in a training incident.
While Bell could not put a timeframe on the important defender's availability, he said to expect a return before the halfway point of the season would be "optimistic".
"I think that would be hopeful. I'm not ruling it out, but that would be optimistic," Bell said on Friday.
"Until he's out of that immobilisation period we can't even put a timeframe on his return, but it is a significant injury."
Hamling's sidekick in defence, Alex Pearce, is also returning from a significant ankle injury but is well advanced and has lifted his running pace and is kicking a football.
Pearce's timeline to return is also unclear, but Bell said he was "progressing in a pleasing manner".
Half-back Nathan Wilson remains in doubt for round one as he recovers from a toe injury.
The Dockers are set to enter the Marsh Community Series with fourth-year tall Griffin Logue and former forward Brennan Cox as their key defenders.
Luke Ryan, Taylin Duman, Stephen Hill and Reece Conca rounded out their back six what appeared to be an 'A' team in Friday's intraclub hitout.
The Dockers were forced to use assistant coach David Hale in the ruck on Friday as they manage injuries to Sean Darcy (shoulder) and Lloyd Meek (foot).
Bell said Darcy would be available for the opening Marsh Community Series clash against Carlton on February 29 and the club was not concerned about the state of its ruck stocks.
PRE-SEASON FIXTURE Check out your team's Marsh Community Series games
"He (Darcy) is still a little bit sore, but he'll be absolutely fine for next week. Lloyd's not too far behind," Bell said.
"We're comfortable with where we sit.
"Ideally it would be good to have a bit more game time into both of them, but there's still a long time to go in the pre-season and we're confident we can get minutes into them and they'll do a really good job for us.
"We know that Rory Lobb can ruck to a very high level, (but) we would like him to play forward.
Bell said the Dockers were in contact with key forward Jesse Hogan and he was "going well", but he could not say when he would return to the club or if he would play this season.
Hogan has taken leave from the Dockers to focus on his mental health and general wellbeing.
"I can't give you any updates on Jesse except to say we are in contact and he's going well and we will give you an update when we are able to," Bell said.
Meanwhile, small forward Sam Switkowski has suffered a stress injury in his back and will miss the early rounds of the season.
Midfielder Darcy Tucker was held out of Friday's intraclub match because of a knee knock.
Bell said prized draftee Liam Henry was on the verge of moving into the main training group in the next couple of weeks after arriving at the club with a knee issue.