BRISBANE coach Chris Fagan admits battered Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale could have played against Fremantle but the Lions were not willing to run their star midfielder further into the ground.
Neale has endured a difficult year on the back of his stunning 2020 campaign, with shoulder and back troubles limiting his output.
The 28-year-old missed six games earlier in the year and will be absent again when the Lions face his former team at Optus Stadium on Sunday.
A bout of gastro knocked Neale around this week which was enough for the Lions to rule him out of tackling the Dockers.
"(Neale) was pretty much in bed and on the toilet seat for four days," Fagan said.
"He wasn't able to train other than walk laps on Thursday.
"He might be good enough to play (on Sunday) but I don't think that's a fair preparation for an AFL game of football.
"He's had a lot of challenges with injury this year and we were pretty determined to give him a spell and hopefully he'll have a good week on the track and he'll be ready for our next game."
After looking certainties for a third-straight top-four finish a month ago, the Lions have a hit a wall with three defeats from their last four games.
Fagan knows his team has to respond but Fremantle has just as much to play for as they are firmly in the frame for a first finals appearance since 2015.
"It is actually really hard to work out where the energy is coming and going from at the moment," he said.
"I only judge our team on what they've done this week and the training session we had at Optus on Thursday morning would arguably be the best training session I've seen our group put in for a long time.
MEDICAL ROOM The full AFL injury list
"Hopefully that's a good sign that we're turning the corner and our energy is going to come back on a more consistent basis."
Midfielder Rhys Mathieson earns a recall in place of Neale while Jaxon Prior is back for Irishman James Madden (omitted).