FREMANTLE coach Justin Longmuir has declared two-time Brownlow Medal winner Nathan Fyfe will return from back surgery in Round 10.
Fyfe hasn't played all season after an off-season shoulder operation, before being grounded due to a back issue that required surgery on March 26.
Longmuir said a fortnight ago that they hoped the 30-year-old Dockers skipper would return "a couple of weeks before the mid-season bye", scheduled for round 14 for Fremantle, but that timeframe has been brought forward.
"We think he'll be back probably at Round 10," Longmuir told AFL 360 on Monday night.
"He's really improved over the last couple of weeks. He's on the right trajectory now."
The Dockers have started the 2022 season with five wins and one loss, and face Geelong (away), North Melbourne (home) and Gold Coast (away), before hosting Collingwood in round 10.
Longmuir has a more immediate selection issue for Saturday's blockbuster clash with Geelong on defensive young guns Heath Chapman and Hayden Young who are due out of health and safety protocols on the same day the team will fly east.
Chapman and Young along with Fremantle squad members Connor Blakeley, Matthew Johnson and Liam Henry all entered protocols last week amid rising COVID cases within WAFL ranks which has forced Fremantle to separate groups at training.
The Dockers got past Carlton by 35 points on Saturday night without Chapman and Young but the emerging pair have been mainstays this season in their defensive unit.
Former top 10 Draft pick Young has impressed averaging 21.8 disposals per game this season, offering dash off half-back. Chapman, who is averaging 17.8 disposals, has shown composure and provided flexibility, with his ability to play small or tall.
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Griffin Logue stepped in with a good display along with James Aish who dropped back against the Blues, with Darcy Tucker coming into the side and playing through the midfield on the wing.
Chapman, who was selected with pick No.14 in the 2020 NAB AFL Draft, and Young, who Fremantle took with pick No.7 12 months earlier, are due out of protocols on Thursday, with the squad travelling to Victoria that day, meaning it will be a tight turnaround.
"We'll wait and see. It’s case by case scenario as they come out of the protocols," Longmuir said after the Carlton win.
"We’ll just have to wait and see when we travel how they pull up."
Fremantle traditionally have flown two days prior to away games, which Longmuir confirmed would be the plan.
The Dockers will be forced into one change with ruckman Sean Darcy entering concussion protocols after a head knock against the Blues, with Lloyd Meek expected to be a like-for-like replacement. Meek was pulled out of Peel Thunder's WAFL game against West Perth on Sunday.
Young midfield gun Neil Erasmus pressed his case for a recall with 34 disposals but he may be unavailable pending the results of a concussion test.
Jye Amiss, who Fremantle took two selections before Erasmus at pick eight at the 2021 NAB AFL Draft, kicked five majors for Peel to press his case for a debut although he faces stiff competition.
Fremantle haven’t been impacted by COVID as much as neighbours West Coast but lost Longmuir for two games, while veteran David Mundy also missed two games. Small forward Lachie Schultz missed their round five win over Essendon due to protocols before returning with three goals against Carlton.