With skipper Matthew Pavlich, ruckman Aaron Sandilands and defender Luke McPharlin nearing the end of their careers, the Dockers probably only have this year and next before their premiership window closes.
Coach Ross Lyon's first year at the helm was a topsy-turvy one.
After the club's 48-point loss to West Coast in Round 9, Lyon was bombarded with criticism.
Richmond legend Kevin Bartlett labelled the Dockers "unwatchable", while former Carlton skipper Mark Maclure accused Lyon of destroying the game with his shut-down style.
Understandably, it took Lyon a fair chunk of the season to truly comprehend his team's strengths and weaknesses, and which players best carried out his game plan.
After 14 rounds, the Dockers were struggling in 13th place on the ladder.
But by the end of the season, Fremantle had gained the respect of the football world, with their elimination-final triumph over Geelong at the MCG showcasing just how much progress the club had made under Lyon.
Fremantle were meant to be easy-kill in that match.
Instead, they stunned the Cats with a 5.7 (37) to 0.1 (1) opening quarter, before holding on grimly at the death as Geelong made a determined charge.
It was arguably Fremantle's greatest-ever victory, and they followed it up with a gutsy performance in a semi-final loss to Adelaide.
The challenge now for the Dockers is to make back-to-back finals for the first time in their history.
And if they're to be a serious threat for the premiership, a top-four finish is a must.
The Dockers' squad is reasonably strong, but their forward line again looms as their weakness.
Pavlich is an out-and-out star, and if he stays fit, should kick in excess of 60 goals.
Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters are excellent small forwards whose pressure when not in possession can be just as important as the goals they kick.
And the medium-sized Chris Mayne has transformed himself into one of the most accurate goalkickers in the league, booting 39.7 last season.
But the absence of another stand-out key forward to back Pavlich up remains a worry, and gives opposition defences a greater chance to halt the 279-game veteran.
Another concern for Fremantle is the fitness of rucking colossus Sandilands, who has been blighted by toe problems over the past two years and will miss the early rounds of 2013 due to a torn hamstring.
"He's obviously an important player to us. But we don't want to rely on any one player," Lyon said.
A fit-again midfield shapes as Fremantle's strength.
The recruitment of speedy rebounder Danyle Pearce from Port Adelaide will alleviate some of the pressure on Stephen Hill, while 2012 Doig Medallist Ryan Crowley is one of the competition's best taggers.
And with Michael Barlow, Nat Fyfe and David Mundy entering the season fully fit, the Dockers will be able to hit the ground running rather than having to nurse their best midfielders into top form.
Fremantle proved last year they are no longer easybeats on the road, with the team embracing Lyon's "anywhere, anytime" philosophy.
And after tasting finals success last year, the Dockers will be hungry to go even deeper in 2013.