Fremantle will wait to better understand skipper Nat Fyfe's playing prospects and prioritis ahead of the 2023 season before making a call on a potential captaincy change.
Fyfe is continuing to build up his fitness levels across the pre-season as he plans for a campaign that will give him the best chance of featuring for the Dockers on a consistent basis.
Shoulder and back injuries have kept the dual Brownlow Medal winner to just seven matches since July 2021, with Fyfe making a long-awaited return to the field last year before battling a hamstring injury late into his 13th season.
With Fyfe working through another pre-season that will challenge his fitness and form, questions have been raised as to whether the Dockers captain should place greater attention toward his football and relinquish his duties as skipper.
Speaking to SEN, Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir said the club will likely delay a final decision to name their captain for 2023 as they look to asses their veteran leader's progress in the weeks ahead.
“The scenario around the leadership and the captain this year is making sure what's best for Nathan going forward and whether the burden of being the captain is good for his footy,” the Dockers coach said.
“The amount of injuries he had last year, that was a really tough season on him as a player and as a skipper, so we need to make sure we get that right and we probably need a little bit more time to work through that in terms of seeing how he tracks through the pre-season.
“We will go through that process later in the pre-season and we will see what it flushes out, but we will need to make sure what's best for the club and what's best for Fyfey going forward, with his footy and the impact he can have on the team.”
Star midfielder Andrew Brayshaw firms as the favourite to replace Fyfe as captain, whether that be this year or further down the road.
The 2022 AFLPA MVP winner, who is entering his sixth season in purple, has been a member of the Fremantle leadership group since 2021.
Fellow leadership group member Alex Pearce is another leading name to potentially replace Fyfe, having stepped in as captain during the 31-year-old's recent absences.
Caleb Serong is the only other 2022 leadership group member at the club, with all-time games record holder David Mundy calling time on his career after 13 seasons as a leader at Fremantle.
For Longmuir, the club is hoping to steer away from isolating their captain, instead relying on a foundation of leaders from across his squad.
"I've said it a few times, we want to build a depth of leadership and we don't want to rely on too few,” Longmuir said.
“With Dave Mundy, who offered so much to the leadership of our football club leaving we need people to step up.
“Really, the captain is just one person, we need a lot of players to support the captain and whoever the captain is needs that support from the playing group and we need that depth of leadership within our group.
“That's been a real positive throughout the pre-season so far, the player-to-player conversations that are going on, the communication on-field and off-field has been really strong.”
Fremantle isn't the only club weighing up a captaincy call for 2023, with Hawthorn, Geelong, North Melbourne and Collingwood all currently having vacant positions this pre-season.
The Dockers' Round 1 bout with St Kilda is just over two months away, scheduled for Sunday, March 19 at Marvel Stadium.