FREMANTLE defender Joel Hamling has suffered a setback in his return from an ankle injury after a routine scan that revealed his recovery was “not quite where we wanted it”. 

The key defender, who injured the deltoid ligament on his left ankle in round one, had been closing in on a return after six weeks on the sidelines but now faces an uncertain recovery period. 

The Dockers listed the 2016 premiership defender as TBA on their official injury list on Tuesday, with high performance manager Phil Merriman confirming the setback. 

“We had a pre-planned scan scheduled in for Joel last week. Unfortunately the scan came back not quite where we wanted it to. His return to play will be pushed back slightly,” Merriman said on the club’s website.

Hamling was required to wear a moon boot after his injury in round one after also pulling a small piece of bone away from his ankle in that injury against Melbourne at the MCG. 

The Western Bulldogs premiership defender missed the entire 2020 season after undergoing multiple surgeries on his left ankle, which was first dislocated in February. 

Joel Hamling watches on during training in June, 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

As recently as last week he was running at increased speed and moving towards a playing return in the next fortnight. 

The Dockers also confirmed defenders Ethan Hughes and Heath Chapman would visit specialists this week to map a path forward after suffering shoulder injuries against West Coast on Sunday. 

Young forward Sam Sturt suffered a knee injury in the WAFL and does not yet have a recovery timeline.  

“Unfortunately, Sam had a body fall across his knee during the game. He did finish out the game but we’re just looking for a specialist’s input as to his return to play guidelines,” Merriman said. 

Club champion Luke Ryan has been ruled out for this week’s clash against Brisbane with a calf injury as the Dockers prepare to fly out on Wednesday morning with a squad of more than 30 players. 

They will be based on the Gold Coast for this Sunday’s clash against the Lions and remain there before flying to Melbourne for the round nine clash against Essendon at Marvel Stadium. 

Luke Ryan kicks long against Hawthorn in round four, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Fremantle chief executive Simon Garlick said the club was hoping for the best and planning for the worst, with the slim possibility their stay could be extended beyond 11 nights if the COVID-19 situation in Perth worsens. 

“Fingers crossed it all continues to track in a positive direction and we can come home on Sunday but it is a real thing we have to consider,” Garlick said on Tuesday. 

“The strong preference and plan is that it will be for the next two games, but we’ll make some allowances from a personnel and equipment perspective.”

The Dockers are scheduled to face Sydney at Optus Stadium in round 10 on Saturday, May 22. 

The club took a financial hit of around $1 million when it hosted the round six clash against North Melbourne at an empty Optus Stadium. 

Garlick said the decision to move this week’s match to Queensland was made possible, given the Dockers face the Lions again in round 21 and could move that match from the GABBA to Optus Stadium.