FREMANTLE football manager Chris Bond says the club is disappointed by speculation that Michael Barlow will not play until 2012, with the first-year star receiving positive news on his prospects for next season.

News Ltd ran a story on Monday suggesting Barlow, who broke his left leg in a sickening collision with teammate Rhys Palmer on Saturday, could miss all of next season and was no certainty to return to football at all.

And sports doctor Peter Larkins predicted the rookie sensation will play football next year but not at the level that saw him rocket into Brownlow Medal contention in his debut season.

Barlow was pain free and in good spirits after receiving messages of support from football people right across the country and Bond said club medicos are confident the 22-year-old would be playing good football next season.

“There’s been certainly speculation in regards to when he’ll come back and from the club’s point of view that’s a bit disappointing,” Bond said from St John of God hospital in Perth, on Monday.

“We’ve had people comment from the eastern states on when they think he’ll be back and won’t be back and what sort of frame it will be in.

“I’m not too sure if any have written him off, but from our point of view the feedback we’re giving Michael is the feedback our medical people have given him and that’s quite positive at this stage.

“We’re really optimistic from the medical feedback that he’ll be back playing good football for us next year.

“Michael needs to hear that now; he doesn’t need to hear any of the negatives.”

Bond said the two breaks in Barlow’s left leg were ‘clean’ and high in the leg and the operation had gone well. He has had a plate inserted into the leg and the club expects he will leave St John of God hospital in the coming days.

“The next thing will be making sure when he gets moved it’s done in a very professional way and he’s in good spirits and pain free,” Bond said.

“He’s had some wonderful messages [and] wonderful support from people all through Australia – a lot of people from other clubs, players from other clubs, but also his family [and] his teammates – (so) he’s been very well supported.

“He’s just so appreciative of the people who have been in touch with him.”

The club will now work carefully through the next stage of Barlow’s recovery, with players who have been through the same injury sure to be called on to share their experience.

“We’ve got some people who have been very experienced at other clubs, ‘Harves’ (coach, Mark Harvey) being one of them, and I’ve got no doubt we’ll sit down soon and say, ‘What’s the best thing for Michael Barlow?’

“He’ll be receiving that sort of support from people who have been through similar things.

“It’s a great game and there’s some great people in this game and they’d have no hesitation.

“Mick’s got that attitude where he’ll find a positive out of it, and the positive will be that when he’s ready to go he’ll do his rehab better than anyone else will ever do it.”

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