SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 20: Zac Clarke of the Dockers is tackled during the roUnd 22 AFL match between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Fremantle Dockers at Spotless Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Fremantle ruckman Zac Clarke has suffered a major setback in his recovery from a persistent left knee injury.

Clarke, who played through knee pain for much of last season, has now undergone three operations to repair fractures in his patella since the end of last season.

The 26-year-old had been hopeful of returning during the JLT Community Series, however, he is now unlikely to return until past the midway point of the season.

“The medical advice we were provided after Zac’s recent surgery is that his rehabilitation phase means he will be available to resume full training in the second half of the season,” general manager of football operations Chris Bond said.

“We will continue to monitor and assess Zac’s progress regarding his likely return date.”