MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 16: Nat Fyfe of the Dockers and Patrick Cripps of the Blues compete for the ball during the round 13 AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Fremantle Dockers at Etihad Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe is tipped to be fit and firing for the start of the 2022 season despite ongoing setbacks to his hindered shoulder.

The dual Brownlow Medal winner had his return date for next season delayed after contracting a bacterial infection in his shoulder after going under the knife.

The initial diagnosis quickly cast great doubt over the midfielder's preparations for the new year, however new light on the 30-year-old's recovery timeline is sure to have given the Dockers a major boost.

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir told AFL Draft Countdown that his battling skipper is set to make a return to training in February and should be ripe for the beginning of next season.

"He's been able to start sweating after the infection got in there and we seem to be on top of that," Longmuir said.

"It's going to be a bit of a long slow process, in some ways it's disappointing.

"We expect him to be right and back in training by mid-Feb or maybe late Feb. We expect him to be right to go for the start of the season.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 27: Nat Fyfe of the Dockers looks dejected during the round 10 AFL match between the Adelaide Crows and the Fremantle Dockers at Adelaide Oval on May 27, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

"All is not lost because he's been a pretty good bank of work under his belt so we expect him to come up to the mark pretty quick."

Fyfe played just the 15 matches in 2021 after dislocating his troubled shoulder in July, with the subsequent surgery causing further setbacks for the onballer.

The Dockers' reliance on their captain has been amplified this off-season following the departure of jet midfielder Adam Cerra, who joined Carlton via the trade window.

The 22-year-old's exit leaves Longmuir with a sizeable void in his engine room, with Fyfe and fellow veteran David Mundy looking to lead a youthful midfield ensemble in 2022.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 12: Caleb Serong, Andrew Brayshaw and Sean Darcy of the Dockers walk the pitch during the 2021 AFL Round 13 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Gold Coast Suns at Optus Stadium on June 12, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Rising stars Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong are tipped for greater exposure in the centre next year, while the Dockers recruited Will Brodie from Gold Coast to aid their stocks.

Fremantle gained Pick 6 as part of the deal that sent Cerra to Ikon Park, with that selection and their own first-round selection of Pick 8 potentially being utilised to recruit a midfielder in Wednesday night's draft.

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