Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich insists the Dockers can develop a midfield to be competitive against the elite teams by the end of this season.
But Pavlich, who believes Fremantle can make the finals even though they sit 10th with a 5-4 record and face a daunting next month, has urged fans to be patient as his team adapt to Ross Lyon's game plan.
The backlash from fans and the media to the Dockers' 48-point loss to local rivals West Coast on Sunday was overwhelming, with AFL legend Kevin Bartlett describing them as 'unwatchable' and several other pundits saying their future is bleak.
Pavlich admitted their performance in the derby, in which they astonishingly managed just seven inside 50s after half-time and finished with their lowest ever score at Patersons Stadium, was unacceptable and said there'd been a frank internal review.
But the veteran was adamant Fremantle were heading in the right direction and backed the on-ball unit to be competitive against Adelaide on Saturday and through the rest of the season.
That comes despite Lyon's assessment that they were 'obliterated' in the middle by the Eagles and that they would need to 'reconstruct' a midfield to compete with the top teams.
"We know that the group of players in there can get the job done for us, we just need to tweak a couple of things and the attitude and the intensity needs to be spot on all the time," Pavlich said.
"We need to clearly work on some of the stoppage structure but we're not going to throw the baby out with the bath water.
"By the end of the season we feel as though we'll have a group of midfielders who are very capable.
"Our aim is to make the top eight and continue to grow the game plan and the way we play, and I'm confident we can do that."
While the reaction to Fremantle's two straight losses on fan websites has been one of significant frustration, Pavlich said the supporters realised the process would take time.
"Our fans are a bit smarter than people give them credit for. They understand it's going to take a little bit of time," he said.
"We're not going to be perfect and we still have to really understand how Ross would like us to play, but we're getting there."
After hosting the in-form Crows, the Dockers face tricky matches against Richmond (MCG), Essendon (home) and Collingwood (MCG) that are likely to define their season.