Fremantle coach Mark Harvey insists he is seriously considering selecting returning midfielder Michael Barlow as a substitute for Sunday’s clash with Essendon at Patersons Stadium, saying the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Barlow played 30 minutes of football for the Peel Thunder reserves in the WAFL last Saturday, winning 15 possessions in his first match since breaking his left leg 11 months ago.

Harvey said he was locked in a debate with the club’s fitness and strength staff and he probably wouldn’t be able to consider the radical selection move if it wasn’t for the AFL’s substitute rule.

The only risk, the coach said, was of Barlow sustaining a soft tissue injury after so long out of the game.

“We’re certainly not flirting with the idea, we’re quite serious about it,” Harvey said from Fremantle Oval on Wednesday.

“It’s just whether we can get it through the fitness and strength guys and put him up for selection, because I don’t think it’s going to take him long to find the ball.

“I’ve seen his game and there’s nothing to suggest to me that he couldn’t be a good sub player.

“What’s the difference between a half at WAFL level and a half potentially at AFL level? That’s the topic.

“It’s going to be an interesting 24 hours for us.”

On the prospect of Fremantle suffering an injury early in Sunday’s match and Barlow being required to play close to a full game, Harvey said the midfielder could “sit in the forward pocket and occupy whoever he was playing on…it’s a big question as to whether we risk that”.

Barlow trained on Monday with the club’s WAFL players, but he wasn’t involved in drills on Wednesday at Fremantle Oval. Harvey said the 23-year-old would take part in the team’s main session on Thursday before being assessed.

Barlow’s rise from mature-age rookie to serious Brownlow Medal chance was one of the stories of the 2010 season before he suffered the horrific leg injury against Port Adelaide in round 14.

Harvey said Barlow’s selection would give the team and Fremantle supporters an enormous emotional lift as the club rallies to get out of a form slump that has seen it lose four of its last five games.

“He’s just that infectious guy, particularly with his teammates,” the coach said. “I know what sort of unity that would bring to the team if he was to run out with them.

“Emotionally it would be an enormous lift for the team and also the supporters.

“I remember Shaun McManus’ last game…the emotion of that and what it did for the team during that game and the build up to the game. The positives far outweigh the negatives.”

Fremantle’s crippling run of injuries appears to be softening, with Roger Hayden poised to return from a foot injury with WAFL side South Fremantle on Saturday, and versatile defender Alex Silvagni (groin) one more week away.

Harvey indicated that he would continue to play 21-year-old Zac Clarke as both a ruckman and a ground-level midfielder, with the 203cm youngster giving Fremantle’s midfield a “different element”.

Essendon is expected to welcome back captain Jobe Watson and key position player Michael Hurley from injury and Harvey said he expected to be fighting with his old club for a finals spot for the rest of the season.

“There’s half a game between us, it’ll be interesting,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure on because of that situation.

“There’s not a lot between fifth and 12th for that matter. That’s how it’s going to be for the rest of the year.”

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