A faster and more intense 2021 AFL season may delay Joel Hamling’s return from an ankle injury, according to senior coach Justin Longmuir.

Hamling is about a fortnight away from playing competitive football but Longmuir said the key defender was unlikely to pull on the Fremantle jumper before round eight against Brisbane.

“I’d expect him possibly to come back through Peel. One thing we’re finding that’s tricky this year (is bringing) guys straight back into the AFL side,” Longmuir said.

“The game is quicker, it takes a lot of effort this year.

“We’ve seen that. Griffin Logue came back a little bit rusty early (against Adelaide) even after he played a Peel game.”

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Longmuir said Hamling could return to the football program as early as next week.

“Usually, you need two full weeks of footy training with the main group before you’re right to resume,” Longmuir said.

“Joel’s build has started, we’ll expect him to come into main training either next week or the week after. We’ll just have to wait and see how it looks from there.”

Longmuir was still pleased with Logue’s return despite saying he had a slow start in Fremantle’s win against Adelaide.

It was his first game since round five of the 2020 season, where he had 10 disposals, six marks and eight rebound 50s up against Adelaide’s Tex Walker.

“I thought (Logue) gave us good flexibility with the other talls down there with Luke Ryan and Brennan Cox. It allowed them to play their role,” Longmuir said.

“By the end of the game, he was really assertive with his body work and positioning and his intercept marking. He’s pulled up really well and ready to go again.”

Longmuir said Logue and Cox are the main candidates to take the opposition’s best key forward until Hamling returns.

“Griff’s got great ability to play on talls and smalls and be really flexible for us in the backline,” Longmuir said.

“Whether it’s him on the best player every week, Brennan Cox has shown he can do that. It will be a week by week thing.”

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