Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has revealed poor form rather than injury convinced him to sub out star midfielder Michael Barlow in Sunday's 24-point derby loss to West Coast.
Barlow, a two-time Ross Glendinning medal winner, was handed the red vest early in the third term after tallying just four disposals in his quietest performance ever.
The low return is in stark contrast to his regular output, with Barlow regularly racking up disposals in the high 20s or low 30s as part of a blue-chip Dockers midfield.
Lyon was quick to dismiss any concerns that Barlow had been injured.
"He is normally pretty good, but he wasn't touching it and we had to do something," Lyon said.
"He's a proud player. He won't like it, but that was the call. It was an obvious one to me.
"(Hayden) Crozier gave us a bit of bite and life (when he came on)."
Meanwhile, Lyon insists he has enough defensive firepower at his disposal heading into Sunday's clash with North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium.
The Dockers' lead at the top of the table is now just six points following their shock derby loss.
Compounding Fremantle's woes is the almost certain suspension of key defender Alex Silvagni, who is set to cop a multiple-week ban for his crude, off-the-ball elbow on Eagles forward Jamie Cripps.
Silvagni's brain fade comes just two weeks after fellow defender Zac Dawson was rubbed out for two matches for an elbow to the face of GWS forward Jeremy Cameron.
Dawson is free to return against the Kangaroos, while Luke McPharlin (corked calf) is also expected to play after being a late withdrawal against the Dockers.
Veteran Michael Johnson (hamstring) made a successful return against the Eagles, with Lyon happy with his defensive options.
Lyon said his team will go away and lick their wounds after slumping to their first derby loss since 2012.
Importantly, the result boosted West Coast's hopes of finishing second, paving the way for a possible derby showdown in the grand final.