Fremantle's finals hopes have suffered a major blow after Matt Taberner was ruled out for the rest of the AFL season with a foot injury.
The Dockers initially thought Taberner would only miss eight weeks of action after an MRI scan showed he had a stress reaction in his left foot.
But a follow-up CT scan showed he had actually suffered a season-ending stress fracture.
Taberner has been Fremantle's best forward this season, and his absence will heap even more pressure on prized recruit Jesse Hogan.
Out-of-favour forward Cameron McCarthy leads the race to replace Taberner, starting with Sunday's clash with Brisbane at Optus Stadium.
The Dockers (4-5) have slipped to ninth following three straight losses.
Taberner's injury means the Dockers can now participate in Monday's mid-season rookie draft.
The 25-year-old missed 15 weeks last season after breaking a metatarsal bone in the same foot.
Although the latest injury isn't directly related, the club is investigating whether there are problems with Taberner's running mechanics.
Dockers coach Ross Lyon was reluctant to point the finger at Optus Stadium, which West Coast have blamed for a spate of foot and toe issues.
"Two years in a row now. It's the same foot. There's some mechanics issues there," Lyon said.
"We're going to have to find an improved method for him.
"I feel disappointment and a real empathy for Matt.
"One of the hardest things being an AFL player is that resilience of your body, and he's one of our great preparers and he's a really good story of hard work, improvement and growth.
"It's part of the journey. We're going to have to find a solution."
Fremantle's preferred option to replace Taberner would have been to send Rory Lobb into attack and recall Sean Darcy to lead the ruck.
But with Darcy now set to miss up to six weeks with an ankle injury, McCarthy is in the box seat for a recall.
In better injury news for Fremantle, forward Harley Bennell will make his WAFL return for Peel Thunder against West Perth on Saturday.
Bennell hasn't played all season because of ongoing calf issues, but is now ready to be unleashed.
"It's significant because he's a wonderful talent who's had a lot of adversity," Lyon said.
"He's persisted and persevered, and at this stage he looks to be overcoming it.
"It's just exciting for him. You can see a bounce in his step. He looks a million bucks. He's lean, he's fit, he's really coming along.
"But we're all cautious based on previous outcomes."
Australian Associated Press