Fremantle Dockers defender Ethan Hughes says he is best suited to the rebounding role he has returned to this season. Alex Pearce and Joel Hamling returned to the side for Saturday’s loss to Melbourne, and despite both suffering fresh injuries, they are set to feature throughout the year, which should free the former Harvey-Brunswick Leschenault player to rebound the ball from defensive 50. Hughes played as a more accountable defender last year in their absence and says the rebounding role suits him better. “It accommodates the attributes I have got — a bit of running power, athleticism, and I think us working together well as a back seven means we can really complement each other’s skills,” he said. Hamling and Pearce, who are in the leadership group, as well as Griffin Logue, missed all or most of the games in last year’s shortened season, while Hughes played all 17 games, averaging nearly five marks a game. Pearce injured his knee on Saturday and is expected to miss several months, while Hamling is due to miss four weeks with a lower leg issue. Hughes said he was looking forward to being able eventually to play with a more settled defensive group. “They are some quality defenders we have coming into our side and they are handy additions to have in general, but with them back it just allows a few others to play a slightly different role,” he said. “We want to defend well and then work together to rebound the ball out and get it going forward.” While Fremantle’s growing injury list will be a concern during the opening weeks of the season, Hughes said the club’s second pre-season under Justin Longmuir was productive, albeit short. “There were some little differences in just trying to compress the pre-season but overall we have got the workload in and we have got what we wanted out of it,” he said. “We have implemented our game plan even more this year. “Hopefully the work we put in is going to pay off for us.” Hughes is one of three South West products at the Dockers, which he says is testament to talent pathways in the South West. “There are a couple of us from the South West league,” he said. “It is great to have a number of players from the region making it to the top level, and it shows the younger guys coming through the ranks, there is a pathway there and all the development in place in the under-age years can get you to where you want to be.” Hughes had 16 disposals playing down back for the Dockers against Melbourne on Saturday and is expected to feature again when they host GWS at Optus Stadium on Sunday afternoon.