First-year Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir expects a fit and firing Joel Hamling anchoring the AFL club's backline from round one next season.
But Longmuir concedes there is still a lot of work to be done as questions linger over the Dockers' handling of Hamling's troublesome rehabilitation from a dislocated ankle.
Longmuir said Hamling, who suffered the initial injury at training in February and has not played a match this season, was due to meet with his surgeon and club medical staff again on Friday.
The former Western Bulldogs premiership defender has spent time away from his Dockers teammates but is expected back at the club next week after "positive" dealings with Longmuir and football manager Peter Bell.
"He's clearly going through some issues with his ankle and we're having some setbacks with that," Longmuir said.
"But I see him playing round one next year and fully fit and being the great defender he is."
Longmuir reiterated the club is committed to reviewing its processes and making any necessary adjustments.
"Hopefully there are some things that we can improve on because it hasn't been a great situation for him and he has had a lot of setbacks," Longmuir said.
"But the thing we need to take into consideration is that this is a horrible injury that he had.
"He dislocated his ankle, which is a serious, serious injury.
"When you have those types of injuries, sometimes you have some mishaps with your recovery."
Longmuir's 139-game playing career at Fremantle was brought to a premature end by a succession of injury setbacks and the coach feels for Hamling in a similar situation.
The 27-year-old is one of several Dockers that have been ruled out for the rest of the season, along with fellow key backmen Alex Pearce (ankle) and Griffin Logue (toe).
Darcy Tucker (hamstring) and impressive youngsters Sam Sturt and Hayden Young (both ankle) are also on the sidelines.
"You feel distant from the group. The team's going well at the moment and you don't feel a part of it," Longmuir said.
"I fully understand that angle of it. Alex Pearce and all our injured players are going through that and would have their dark moments.
"That's the worst part of being an AFL footballer, it really is, so we need to wrap our arms around those guys, give them some support and show them the path back into the team."
Australian Associated Press