Dockers magician Walters off crutches
Michael Walters. Pic: WA News

Fremantle forward Michael Walters is off crutches as he targets a return before the finals.

Dockers coach Ross Lyon initially predicted the 23-year-old would miss the rest of the year after the club sent Walters for surgery on a dislocated tendon in his left ankle last month.

However, the prognosis has improved and Walters can now put weight on the ankle.

Walters was officially listed by the club last week as being sidelined for a further 11-13 weeks.

Under the best-case scenario, he would be available for the round-21 clash against Hawthorn at Patersons Stadium - three weeks out from finals.

However, a return for the match the following week against Brisbane at the Gabba would be a more attractive option if Walters' ankle continues to respond well to his rehabilitation schedule.

Fremantle are likely to rush him straight back into the team once fit because of his ability to hit the scoreboard.

Walters matured into a genuine star for the Dockers last year, kicking 46 goals from 21 matches.

He is also a proven big-game performer, with 11 goals from five finals, including three in last year's preliminary final win over Sydney at Patersons Stadium.

The Swan Districts recruit said he had been frustrated watching the team at times perform below par during his absence.

The Dockers have lost to Sydney, North Melbourne and Port Adelaide since Walters was injured against the Hawks in round three, but face an enviable run of games starting with Saturday's clash against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.

"I'm doing a bit of boxing and a bit of upper-body weights to try and build myself up and make myself a little bit stronger while I can and make myself fitter, especially in the cardio area," Walters told Fremantle's website.

"I'm just hoping that once I'm back, I'm fit enough."

Fremantle's injury list is getting smaller after a run of bad luck early in the season.

Key forward Scott Gumbleton could return in the next fortnight from a hamstring tear that cut short a promising pre-season after his arrival from Essendon.

Clancee Pearce (shoulder) should be available for WAFL affiliate Peel Thunder's next match against East Fremantle on June 7, but full-back Luke McPharlin (quad) faces a race against time to be fit to face the Bulldogs.

The West Australian

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