Former Fremantle champion Paul Hasleby has urged the Dockers to take a cautious approach with midfielder Michael Barlow, not rush him in as a substitute for Sunday’s clash with Essendon at Patersons Stadium.

As coach Mark Harvey debated the Barlow issue with fitness coach Jason Weber last night, hinting strongly he wanted the ball magnet to play, Hasleby warned injury was not the only risk in an early return – that Barlow’s confidence could also suffer if rushed back.

He said it was too early to tell if Tendai Mzungu’s quick entry as a substitute three weeks ago had worked. And he believed Garrick Ibbotson’s confidence and form had suffered by being picked straight away after an ankle problem.

“There is always the risk of soft-tissue injury but apart from that, I would rather a player comes in to be absolutely cherry ripe and ready to go, just from a form and confidence point of view,” Hasleby said.

He was supported by Eagles champion Glen Jakovich, who made an immediate return from a knee reconstruction in 1998 but warned that a broken leg was vastly different because of the greater muscle wastage.

“With any major injury, you go through a lot of peaks and troughs physically and mentally in the first six to eight weeks after you come back,” Jakovich said.

“I would leave him in the WAFL for another two to three weeks and let him absorb some of those.

“I think Fremantle can beat Essendon without Barlow.”

Harvey stressed again he was seriously considering Barlow’s re-entry as a substitute but was having the debate with Weber, a hardliner on conditioning issues.

“It is just whether I can get it through the fitness and strength guys and put him up for selection because I don’t think it is going to take him long to find the ball,” he said. “I have seen his game (for Peel reserves last Saturday) and there is nothing that suggested to me that he couldn’t be a good sub player.”

Harvey admitted there was a risk if a Dockers player was injured early, exposing Barlow’s lack of match conditioning, but said his return would lift the club.

“Emotionally it will be an enormous lift for the team and also the supporters,” Harvey said.

“I think the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

Harvey said he would again play three big men, retaining Zac Clarke as a big-bodied on-baller.

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