FREMANTLE will move quickly to reintegrate captain Nat Fyfe into its AFL program after a period of separation early this week as a COVID precaution, with the Dockers on a six-day break ahead of Saturday's clash against Hawthorn.
Barring any complications, Fyfe appears certain to face the Hawks at Optus Stadium after making his return from shoulder and back surgeries through the WAFL on Saturday.
It is standard for the Dockers' WAFL players to be separated from the main group early in the week, but Fyfe's case is particularly sensitive after he was mobbed by fans on the final siren following Peel Thunder's win against Subiaco on Sunday.
The dual Brownlow medallist embraced the occasion at Leederville Oval and spent several minutes signing autographs and taking selfies with fans before making his way to the change rooms.
Fyfe wore a mask as a precaution at Optus Stadium during the Dockers' win against Brisbane on Sunday, and coach Justin Longmuir said the club would find ways to keep him involved early this week.
"We've got (Monday) off. If we can get to Tuesday, he's good with his mask wearing and we'll segregate him from the group a little bit," Longmuir said.
"We've got a six-day break, so we can't take too long, we've got to get on the horse pretty quick. We'll just try and work around a few different things.
"He was around the group today (Sunday) though and he's really diligent with his mask wearing. We'll continue to do that."
Fyfe had 24 disposals and showed flourishes of his midfield class in an otherwise "rusty" WAFL performance on Saturday, getting through unscathed and describing the match as an ideal "stepping stone" back to the AFL.
Longmuir said the captain had performed as he expected and "bridged the gap" to what is required at AFL level, but the post-match scenes meant caution was now required.
"It was a bit of a fiasco … we would have loved to have taken him off with a couple of minutes to go and just ushered him down to the change rooms so he didn't have to deal with that," the coach said.
"But the game was on the line, and the competitive beast he is he wanted to be out there and wanted to help Peel win. It is what it is. It was great for WA footy I thought."
How Fyfe returns to an in-form midfield is an intriguing question, with Andrew Brayshaw, Caleb Serong and Will Brodie particularly influential as a centre square combination against Brisbane on Sunday.
The trio combined for 25 clearances and 45 contested possessions, with Brodie's centre square work particularly telling through the third quarter as the Dockers went on to win the clearance count 48-35.
The team only used four ground-level midfielders for centre bounces – compared to the Lions' seven – with David Mundy (26 centre bounce attendances), Brayshaw (24), Serong (23) and Brodie (23) the select group.
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The Dockers' plan appears to be for Fyfe to return initially through the midfield after he attended all 20 centre bounces that occurred while he was on the field for Peel on Saturday.
He drifted forward very rarely but declared after the match that his role would be tweaked once he spends time at AFL level.
"That was the plan (to play midfield). We just felt there was so much newness … so just get around the ball and something I know," he said.
"But my role will look to evolve as I build back to form in the AFL."