WEEK after week, month after month, two themes are constantly repeated throughout the footy world.

One: the harder you work, the luckier you get. Nothing replaces the fact that perfect preparation is the most likely route to perfect performance. That’s the controllable.

The second is the exact opposite: the uncontrollable. Whether we like it or not, good or bad fortune will inevitably play its part.

Fremantle has been the success story of the year. From 14th in both 2008 and 2009 with a 6-16 win/loss ratio, to 10-4 after 14 rounds of 2010 has been a massive improvement.

The key personnel has changed a little, but the big inclusion is 22-year-old recruit Michael Barlow who had not played a national comp game leading into this season.

It is hard to believe that a first-year player can have such an impact that he was third favourite for the Brownlow Medal leading into round 14. Plucking an All-Australian standard midfielder out of the VFL with a rookie selection was either a stroke of recruiting genius or more likely a fair bit of good luck.

If the Freo recruiters thought he was this good, I can guarantee they would have drafted him as the first selection in the national draft. Their first pick was Anthony Morabito and, while he shown tremendous potential, Barlow has been the undoubted recruit of the year and if it was a choice between the two he would now have to get the nod.

Then with only a few minutes to go in Fremantle’s big win over Port Adelaide on Saturday with the game well won, the cruel hand of fate intervened.

Barlow collides with teammate Rhys Palmer, a leg gets stuck in the wrong place in the wrong angle and the result in that moment of bad fortune is a season-ending broken leg. Random chance has struck again.

Barlow’s season has received universal admiration because we all love to see perseverance rewarded.

It is a hard luck story for both individual and team because he has helped immensely the link between the ruck dominance of Aaron Sandilands and the ability of Fremantle to win the clearances.

First-year player or not, Barlow is a massive loss which will dent Freo’s premiership hopes.

Occasionally in the post-game euphoria of a grand final win, we will hear the comment that ‘we knew we would win the premiership weeks ago’.  I have never empathised at all with that emotion and put it under the umbrella of never taking any notice of what is said in the heightened atmosphere after a grand final win.

The Barlow injury is further proof that footy is different every Monday morning and premierships become viable late on grand final day and never before.

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