Fremantle remains confident that midfielder Michael Barlow can make a strong return from a broken left leg, but still won’t put a date on when that will be.

Barlow, 23, was one of the success stories of the 2010 season until he suffered his horrific injury against Port Adelaide in round 14.

Recruited from VFL club Werribee, Barlow was elevated to Fremantle’s senior list as a nominated rookie last year, but has been formally promoted for the 2011 season.

Fremantle sports science manager Jason Weber said Barlow was progressing well.

“Mick’s on track with his recovery from the fracture and looks to be back this season in a good way,” Weber told

“Now that the bone is strong and recovered, one of the most important things is the soft tissue surrounding it.”

General manager of football operations Chris Bond said in November that the club wouldn’t rush Barlow’s rehabilitation, and that it was too early to tell whether round one was a realistic target for him.

Fremantle returned to pre-season training in driving rain on Wednesday, with an increase in its players’ aerobic capacity the focus.

Ahead of the AFL’s reduction of the interchange bench to three players and one substitute, Weber said he had to be mindful of rotations and roles within coach Mark Harvey’s game plan.

“I know Mark still wants to play an aggressive brand of football so making sure our players can continue to play in that manner, over a longer duration, is going to require more aerobic strength,” he said.

“The coaches will come to me with an idea and I will say whether a particular player can or can’t fulfil that role.

“Or if we were to go down the path of playing the substitute and using that player for 50 per cent of the game, two or three weeks in a row, we would have to consider how that affects their conditioning.”

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