Fremantle will take a significantly depleted backline into Sunday’s NAB Cup openers against West Coast and Essendon, with coach Ross Lyon declaring key defenders Luke McPharlin, Alex Silvagni and Antoni Grover are unlikely to be available.

McPharlin, who played 20 games last season as Fremantle’s primary key defender, rolled his ankle at training last week and missed the club’s intra-club hit-out last Friday night, with Silvagni and Grover also rested.

While Grover trained well on Monday, all three missed the club’s main training session at Patersons Stadium on Wednesday morning.

“The intention is none of them are training, so I think they’d be unlikely,” Lyon said on Wednesday, with Zac Dawson, Peter Faulks and potentially Adam McPhee and Michael Johnson the players Fremantle will turn to in defence.

Lyon said he was keen to select first-year midfielder Lachie Neale on Sunday, with the South Australian clearly the standout draftee on the track this pre-season, while mature-age recruit Lee Spurr and No.16 draft pick Tom Sheridan should also play.

“It’s hard to make exact promises because you always lose a couple to niggles (but) Lachie Neale as a first-year player will be playing,” the coach said.

“He’s come out of the intra-club and he’s had a couple of touches but he’s got a bit of work to do yet.

“A lot of our first-year players have done the bulk of our training. It’s much more their attitude, their enthusiasm and their vibrancy that we’ve been impressed with.”

While midfielder Anthony Morabito, who is returning from a knee reconstruction, completed a solid running session on Wednesday morning, key on-baller David Mundy continued rehabilitation away from the training group.

Fremantle’s 2010 club champion appears unlikely to play any part in the club’s pre-season campaign, with Lyon also declaring a round one return for the midfielder “optimistic”.

Mundy injured an ankle last June and required significant surgery at the end of the season after returning to play in the club’s round 22 loss to North Melbourne.

The 26-year-old has suffered setbacks in his rehabilitation but is aiming to be available when Fremantle face the reigning premiers at Patersons Stadium on March 31.

“He’s still a way off,” Lyon said. “Speaking to him, he thinks he’s a chance for round one and I said, ‘You’re being a bit optimistic’.

“Those great players tend to prove you wrong, so I’m hoping that’s what’s going to occur.

“In the end I trust my players, so if David’s saying round one, let’s give him every opportunity.

“I’d love to have a crystal ball because a lot can happen between now and round one.”

Lyon said Mundy had “clearly had some setbacks” this summer, with the clearance specialist restricted to running light laps at this stage of his rehabilitation.

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