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Fremantle defender Alex Pearce is confident he can clear any hurdles returning from the cruel blow of another serious injury setback and become a better player next season.
Pearce emerged on crutches from St John of God Hospital on Friday morning after successful surgery to insert screws and a plate in the fractured left ankle he suffered during the thrilling win over Collingwood last Saturday at the MCG.
The luckless 201cm backman heard a pop as he was kicking in the third term, and feared the worst from a seemingly innocuous incident before scans confirmed his All Australian-calibre season was over.
Pearce had to wait 672 days between his 21st and 22nd appearances after previously breaking his right leg in round nine, 2016 and then battling another fracture and complications during his recovery.
He returned in round one last season and played 21 games before going to another level this year in the AFL's second-stingiest defence, giving Pearce belief he can overcome this setback and return at an elite level.
"It definitely does. I have been in this situation before so I know what it feels (like). This injury certainly isn't as bad as my last one," Pearce said.
"I missed almost 20 months of footy with the last one, and was able to come back and be a better player on my return, so that's going to be my focus on this recovery as well.
"Hopefully I'll have a full pre-season, get to work and come back a better player than what we've seen this year."
Pearce had to deal with doubts if his career might be taken from him during his last rehabilitation phase, and was reluctant to go into too much detail about why his latest injury occurred.
But previous checks on his bone density and running style had not revealed any issues.
"I've obviously had plenty of tests down with my other leg, doing it twice, and I've never had anything come back on my bone density," he said.
"My running mechanics are always pretty good. The docs and physios are looking at the game and a few different incidents, but like I said before it's not something I really want to comment on just yet."
Pearce, who denied Optus Stadium's surface had anything to do with his injury, had bandaging from his foot to knee on Friday, and will return to hospital in coming weeks for a full cast before being put into a moon boot.
He hopes to start the process of walking and running again after about 10 weeks, but in the meantime the leadership group member plans to support his teammates in their push for finals.
"I'd like to think my influence is a bit more than just going out to get a kick on the weekend," Pearce said.
Griffin Logue, who hasn't played for Freo since round 22, 2017 due to foot and hamstring issues, is Pearce's likely replacement when the Dockers return from the bye against Port Adelaide at home next Saturday.
"I think he's really ready to fill the void, as such," Pearce said.
"He's a really talented player and someone who needs a few games to get the feel of AFL footy again.
"He's probably not my size but he's got me covered athletically in just about every area, I think.
"He's a very strong boy, he's got a great leap, which helps him against those bigger, taller players.
"I think he can handle himself against any of the competition's key forwards."