Key defender Brennan Cox is firming for a late return in the 2021 season after it was initially thought his season was over due to a hamstring tendon injury.
Cox hasn’t played since round 12 against the Western Bulldogs and senior coach Justin Longmuir said the 22-year-old had been exceptional in the recovery process.
It means a round 23 appearance against St Kilda isn’t out of the question.
“That (a 2021 return) is very realistic,” Longmuir said.
“I haven't seen him for the last couple of weeks because we've been in quarantine and the rehab guys are outside quarantine.
“By all reports, he's been really diligent to his injury rehab and has been ahead of the curve since he got into rehabbing that injury. He's given himself a real chance of returning, probably around 23, he will be available.”
The next milestone for Cox is a return to main training, which can’t happen until Fremantle complete their 14-day quarantine period on Sunday.
“Once we get out of quarantine next week, he'll be back into full training, so he's done a really good job,” Longmuir siad.
“We wouldn't put him in (the team) unless he was ready to go and 100 per cent fit and the doctors have ticked it all off. Maybe he gets a game at Peel under his belt (first).
“We wouldn't see it as rushing him back in, he needs to tick every box and so far he's done that. It's a great effort by him and I'd like to reward that as well, coming back in the back part of the year.”
The return of Cox combined with a fit Alex Pearce would mean Longmuir would have two key talls at his disposals – a rare occurrence in his two years as senior coach.
The only time the pair have played together in the past two years was in round one, where Pearce played mostly as a forward and came off with a knee injury.
“It would be nice to get a couple of key (defenders) in the same team. I don't think it's happened since I've been here,” Longmuir said.
“It might allow Griff (Logue) to play to his strengths a little bit more and Luke Ryan to play to his strengths a little bit more as well.
“It'd be nice to get a look at that for the last few games of the year.”
Pearce is set to return against Brisbane this Sunday after missing a week due to concussion.
“Alex is looking good to return. He's got to get through full training but at this stage, he's ticked every box. Hopefully he comes up,” Longmuir said.