South Fremantle are banking on a fit James Sellar to help drive a revival in the second half of the season.
Three consecutive losses following the club's first bye in round eight have led to the Bulldogs stumbling from finals contender to contemplating another development year for the squad's younger players.
The Bulldogs have slumped to seventh, four wins adrift of fourth-placed East Fremantle, and face another tough assignment in hosting form side Swan Districts at Fremantle Oval tomorrow.
A faint glimmer of hope came last weekend courtesy of a solid return by former Adelaide and Melbourne utility player Sellar.
The 25-year-old had 12 disposals, six marks and kicked a goal against East Perth last Saturday in his first game since round seven after requiring minor knee surgery.
South Fremantle football manager Gary Davidson predicted there would be improvement from their star recruit in the club's remaining nine home-and-away games.
"He's had a good rehab and he pulled up pretty well after the game on Saturday," Davidson said.
"Realistically we've had him for four games out of the 10. We think there's significant upside there with James and what he brings to the team.
"He had that little bit of surgery on the knee and it took a while to get over that. He did some good things last Saturday, so hopefully it's onwards and upwards with him."
League coach and former Docker Paul Hasleby is out of contract at the end of this year.
It is believed he will be given until the end of the season in the role regardless, but the team will need to show improvement and post a run of wins for Hasleby to earn an extension.
South Fremantle posted a financial loss of almost $300,000 last year, meaning the club is understood to be reluctant to make costly coaching changes.
Davidson said it had not been discussed internally whether new on-field goals would be set for the rest of the season given the Bulldogs' slim finals hopes.
"Underneath it all we're still a very young side," Davidson said.
"We played another first-gamer in Mitch Banks last week. If you take out the Craig Whites, Ashton Hams and Paul Mugambwas of this world, we're still a team with a captain that's 26 and everyone is underneath him.
"Our initial thoughts last year were let's get 50 games into these younger players as quickly as we can and whilst we haven't gifted games to people, it takes a while.
"And sometimes they can't sustain a long season and occasionally their concentration levels drop within games and teams seize upon that."
The club is hoping Mugambwa (ankle) will be fit to play against premiers West Perth at Fremantle Oval on Sunday week.