West Coast champion Glen Jakovich says Fremantle can kiss their top-four ambitions goodbye if they fail to win tomorrow's western derby at Patersons Stadium.

The dual Eagles premiership defender made the call as Stephen Hill was ruled out yesterday with a hamstring strain, depriving last year's grand finalists of their fastest midfielder.

Hill's absence delivered a late reprieve for leadership group member Matt de Boer, who was named on the interchange bench alongside the returning Michael Barlow. Tom Sheridan was dropped.

The Eagles made a major selection statement on the back of three successive defeats, axing Sharrod Wellingham as one of three changes.

Captain Darren Glass (suspension) and Shannon Hurn (knee) were recalled, while Simon Tunbridge was selected to make his derby debut in what will be his third AFL appearance.

Jeremy McGovern and Dom Sheed were omitted from the side that lost to Carlton last Saturday.

Fremantle have slumped to 3-3 on the back of consecutive losses in their worst start to a season since 2009 - the year they finished 14th.

Jakovich is convinced the Dockers boast the midfield firepower to win their fourth successive derby, but said Ross Lyon's side could rule out the precious double chance in September if it was to suffer an upset defeat for the third straight week.

Only one side - Collingwood in 2009 - has finished in the top four in the past eight seasons after slumping to 3-4 after seven rounds.

And the improbable task has been made even tougher for Fremantle this year, with the Dockers dealt a draw that means they play Geelong, Hawthorn and Port Adelaide twice, courtesy of finishing in the top third of the ladder in 2013.

Under the draw's revamped format designed to help with equalisation, teams must now play a minimum of two of the opposition sides that finish in their third of the table twice.

Jakovich said recent history showed clubs rarely recovered from a poor start to make the top four at the end of the season.

"If they lose the derby, I can't see them making top four," Jakovich said.

"Given that they were predicted to finish there, if they lose this one they go to 3-4.

"Basically one third of the season's gone. Given the fact they've still got Port Adelaide away and then Geelong, it's tough.

"Their first nine rounds were extremely tough, the toughest in the competition.

"They really needed to be six (wins) from nine games and then their run home would give them a good opportunity. This is the easy one of their three games (before the bye). They can't afford to lose this one."

The Dockers went into lockdown yesterday, employing security guards to man the gates of Fremantle Oval to ensure any West Coast scouts were denied access to their final training session.

Lyon admitted the move was partially to play up the "theatre" of a western derby build-up, something he had grown to understand and enjoy during his three years in WA.

However, with the club attracting an unprecedented number of match review panel charges this season - eight players have been cited at AFL and WAFL level - Lyon said he would speak to the group about controlling its emotions in the derby spotlight.

"What I've learned is there's a lot of excitement about derbies," Lyon said.

"I'd be disappointed if we're more intense this week, but the build-up is bigger. There's great interest, it's great for the city and I get that now, but I've still got to strip that back.

"And it's Aaron's (Sandilands) 200th. We'll acknowledge that pre-game, and acknowledge it's a derby, but when the ball's bounced we need to do what we do and focus on our role and effort.

"That helps get them through."

Lyon welcomed the return of Barlow, who has won the Ross Glendinning Medal as best on the ground in the past two derbies.

"He's a ball magnet and he brings enormous run and spirit to the team," he said.

"We're always glad to add those elements."

"If they lose the derby, I can't see them making top four … one third of the season's gone."" *Glen Jakovich *

The West Australian

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