FREMANTLE'S nightmare injury crisis plaguing the club's key-position stocks has deepened further, with Alex Pearce set to miss a significant period with a knee injury and Joel Hamling hurting his troublesome ankle in a brutal loss to Melbourne on Saturday.
Pearce, making his first appearance since June 2019 due to a long-term ankle injury, suffered a suspected MCL issue in the second quarter of the 22-point defeat at the MCG and was substituted out of the clash.
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The important defender had been thrown forward out of necessity, with fellow attacking threats Rory Lobb (knee), Michael Frederick (calf), Josh Treacy (suspension), Michael Walters (hamstring) and Sam Sturt (ankle) all sidelined.
However, he lasted just over a quarter before landing awkwardly on his left knee in a marking contest to add the Dockers' woes, with the club to send the 25-year-old for scans later this weekend.
"We'll have to get it scanned, but it looks like maybe an MCL ligament," Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir said.
"He's going to miss a bit of time. It's not season-ending or anything like that, but it'll probably be four, six, eight weeks … that sort of range. But we won't know until we get it scanned.
"It's really disappointing for him. He's better with it now. When you've been out for so long, you come back and play your first game and you get injured again … you do get emotional and think 'why me?' and all of that sort of stuff.
"He's in better spirits now, but we'll get around him and support him. I know he'll do the work."
Meanwhile, fellow key defender Hamling limped from the field late in the match after appearing to tweak the same ankle that kept him sidelined throughout the entirety of last season.
Although the club is confident the issue is different from the one that hampered the Western Bulldogs premiership player throughout a difficult season 2020, Hamling remains in doubt to face Greater Western Sydney next Sunday.
"He's got an ankle injury on the same ankle as last year, but it's not the same injury. We just think it's a ligament strain, so he'll be touch and go for next week," Longmuir said.
"It's devastating because they've missed a lot of footy, it's devastating because they are leaders, it's devastating because they're tall and we're missing a few of those at the moment.
"We'll wrap our arms around Alex and cross our fingers Joel gets up next week, because I thought he was in really good form. His last three weeks have been really good, so we need him out there."
Melbourne kicked the game's opening five goals to build the foundations for its impressive victory, with debutant James Jordon capping the scintillating start with the first major of his AFL career.
Jordon finished with 15 disposals, five marks and five tackles to go with his maiden goal, with Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin hailing the performance as one of the best debuts he can remember.
"I love JJ. It's just his toughness in tight, he makes good decisions on the outside … and he bobs up in positions to kick goals," Goodwin said.
"That's as impressive a first game as I've seen from a player in a little while, in terms of his impact. It wasn't a startling impact, it was simple brilliance. That's what we love about JJ.
"That's the good thing about where we've been, we don't need every player to come in and play straightaway. Our list is starting to mature, so we get a chance to develop our players in the VFL.
"James has been there for two years, but his summer and his pre-season has commanded that he needs to be picked. Not only be picked, but be one of our starting mids. He's been dominant at training. We're rapt for him."