FREMANTLE'S Alex Pearce has suffered an injury setback while in isolation, with the defender undergoing surgery on Wednesday.
Pearce missed the second half of last season after fracturing his ankle in round 11 and sat out the Dockers' round one loss to Essendon.
The slow recovery meant the important backman only resumed running again in January and had earmarked a return to the field in the early stages of the season.
However, the 24-year-old now looks set to remain sidelined when football resumes after needing further surgery this week.
It is his third bout of surgery on the injury after a follow-up in December.
The club said Pearce had "experienced discomfort" while training away from the club in recent weeks.
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"Alex consulted a specialist and the advice was that he undergo surgery on a small area of the fracture at the front of his ankle," general manager of football Peter Bell said.
"The specialist is confident that the procedure will resolve the issue and allow Alex to resume training.
"Once Alex has recovered from the surgery and commenced his rehabilitation phase we will have a better understanding of when he can resume training.
"It's incredibly frustrating and disappointing for Alex, particularly given that he was so close to playing before the season was shut down."
Pearce, who is a member of the Dockers' leadership group and considered a potential future skipper of the club, has endured a wretched run with injury throughout his career, managing 53 games since his debut in 2015.