Injured Dockers star Michael Barlow has summed up his heartbreak at not being on the field for yesterday’s historic AFL elimination final, declaring: “It’s been tough”.

The 22-year-old midfielder’s fairytale debut in the AFL came to an excruciating end when he broke his leg against Port Adelaide in July.

Yesterday he watched in jubilation as Fremantle defeated Hawthorn in the elimination final at Subiaco. But it would have been a bittersweet experience, with the knowledge that his dream of playing in an AFL grand final this season had evaporated because of his injury.

“It’s been tough,” he said this week, after fresh rounds of rehabilitation and another visit to his surgeon.

“Game day has probably been some of the tougher days, just knowing you were involved not that long ago in a playing sense.”

Recruited as a mature-age rookie, Barlow was one of the favourites for this year’s Brownlow Medal.

But after being sidelined, his role during the finals has been to mentor Fremantle youngsters such as Stephen Hill.

His parents, Herb and Jenny Barlow, said their hearts went out to their son when they watched yesterday’s Dockers clash on TV from their Melbourne home.

“He wanted to be out there, there’s no doubt about that. He would have been feeling it. But he’s strong enough to know, well, he’s injured and this is the way it has to go,” Mrs Barlow said.

Instead of the finals berth he had always dreamed of playing, Mrs Barlow said her son was instead focused on his return to fitness.

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