FREMANTLE midfielder Ryan Crowley has backed teammate and good friend Michael Barlow to return from injury bigger and better after the Brownlow Medal fancy broke his left leg on a dramatic Saturday afternoon.

Barlow, who has been a revelation in Fremantle’s midfield this season, collided with teammate Rhys Palmer as he ran back with the flight of the ball in the final quarter against Port Adelaide at Subiaco Oval.  

Fremantle went on to win by 57 points, building a two-game break on its top-four rivals, but the winner’s rooms resembled those of a losing side moments after the match.

“It’s a funny feeling, I’ve never been in a change rooms after a win that’s been so somber,” Crowley told after the match.  

“Me and Rhys (Palmer) went through a similar thing last year for the majority of the season and it’s really tough to go through. Hopefully I can share some of my experience with him and offer a bit of a hand to him.

“I know the character that he’s got, he’ll come back bigger and better. He works so hard, he’s a really good fella and he prepares himself so well, which is why I know he’ll come back.”

Fremantle was bruised and battered after Saturday’s win with Antoni Grover (hamstring) and Nat Fyfe (concussion) sidelined before half time and a host of other players fighting on sore.   
Crowley, who broke the game open with five second-half goals, said it was a courageous win after Port drew to within 10 points at half time and threatened to overrun the undermanned Fremantle.

“The boys were putting their head over the ball and running back with the flight and they’re things we pride ourselves on,” he said.

“We were challenged in that second quarter, they came out firing, and we sort of went away from the things that make us a good football team.

“The message from Harves was get back to those things. We did and we came away with the win.”

Palmer, who spent 2009 on the sidelines recovering from a knee reconstruction, played the best game of his comeback season, finishing with 31 possessions, five inside 50s and six clearances.   

Crowley joined Palmer in rehabilitation last season with complicated stress fractures in his feet and said his teammate had been building for a big game.

“I’ve seen it coming,” he said. “Hopefully over the next few months you’ll see the Rhys of old.

“He was really good. He sort of got a bit more of an opportunity to run on-ball with a few of the guys going down.”

Crowley played as a defensive forward on Port playmaker Steven Salopek on Saturday, but he found himself in the right positions after half time, kicking the first three goals of the third quarter.

“I needed it. I had a stinker of a first half and I was really feeling the pressure,” he said.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re working really hard and things aren’t working for you and other times it just seems you can’t get away from it. 

“It was good to get on the end of a couple.”

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