Dockers can disprove doubters: Barlow
Having made a habit of proving doubters wrong, Fremantle’s Michael Barlow believes his AFL club can do likewise.
The inexperienced Dockers are rank outsiders for their sudden-death semi-final against finals-hardened Geelong at the MCG on Friday night.
They have not won outside Perth in almost three months, or at the MCG in more than three years and have not played there this season.
An injury cloud over their trump card, giant ruckman Aaron Sandilands, feeds the perception they are fodder for a Cats side angered by Friday night’s narrow loss to St Kilda.
But Barlow’s own battle to overcome several draft setbacks and be rookie-listed by the Dockers at age 21, then voted by his peers as the AFL’s best first-year player on Monday night, shows the power of belief.
And the now 22-year-old, whose seemingly unquenchable spirit remains strong despite missing the finals after breaking his leg in round 14, said the Dockers had that attribute in abundance.
“We can draw a lot of confidence from (beating Geelong in) round three, we played them over there at Subiaco and Gary Ablett had a day out and we were able to have a win,” Barlow said.
“The confidence we can draw from that, we’re definitely a self-driven kind of side, no one gives us much chance from the outskirts.
“Guys like Matt de Boer, Jay van Berlo, those kinds of guys, the guys that people from your perspective probably can’t see why they’re playing, they’re so valuable to us.
“And our self-drive and our self-determination to succeed for the Fremantle faithful and ourselves in general is second to none.
“We’re just looking at this Friday night as a big challenge and an exciting challenge … that kind of drive can have a big impact.”
That sense of belief kept Barlow confident he would eventually succeed in the AFL, despite several deflating draft experiences.
From his 33-disposal, two-goal debut, he was proved correct, averaging more than 25 touches and a goal per game until the injury.
Rather than curse that setback, he is grateful he had the chance to prove himself first.
“It’s a bit disappointing not to be involved from a playing perspective, but I still feel I do have some worth to the group outside of that,” Barlow said.
“I’ve said it a million times, just to still be involved in the Fremantle football club and what we’re going towards this year is fantastic, so no sour grapes from me.”
That positivity also applies to his recovery.
With his multiple fractures nearly fully healed, he expects a full pre-season of training and hopes to play from the start of the NAB Cup.