It’s the confirmation every Fremantle Dockers’ supporter and football fans in general have been waiting for since July 3, 2010.

In: Michael Barlow.

He might have to take a submarine, a camel train or even hitchhike, but Barlow will be in Melbourne with his Fremantle teammates to play the Demons at the MCG on Sunday.

After almost 11 months on the sidelines with a broken leg sustained in that fateful round 14 fixture last season, the 23-year-old has been named in Freo’s squad for the crucial fixture.

Rookie-listed Ben Bucovaz has also been selected and will make his AFL debut.
Bucovaz, 20, was taken in the 2008 AFL Draft as the No. 56 pick overall. He is a strongly built type with a long, penetrating kick.

Reigning Doig Medallist David Mundy is out for up to eight weeks, while Hayden Ballantyne also misses with a minor hamstring problem that will keep him out for a fortnight.

Barlow said it had been tough missing so much footy and going through such a long rehabilitation process.

“It’s one of those rehabs you have to get 100 per cent right and not rush it back because you’ll run into issues along the track,” he said.

“It was really important for us to get it right the first time.”

But he never for a moment doubted that he would get back on his feet and out on an AFL football field again and couldn’t wait to get out there on Sunday with his teammates and give his all for the club and its supporters again.

“I love this place and I’m indebted to it for what it’s given me the chance to do,” he said.

Barlow said he just wants to be a contributor in Sunday’s game, which will be his first at the MCG.

“I’m just looking to get straight back into it,” he said.

“I think playing a full game at WAFL level was really good for me.

“That’s given me a lot of confidence in my body and getting through a full game.”

In the end, Barlow simply gave Fremantle senior coach Mark Harvey no choice but to pick him this week with a stunning 33-possession performance for WAFL club Peel Thunder that helped knock off ladder-leaders West Perth last Saturday.

“Ideally, if we had more numbers he might have played another WAFL game,” Harvey said.

“But seeing how well he played forced the issue – even before Mundy had been put out.”

The announcement to the Freo players that Barlow was back after almost one year’s hard work and determination drew what Harvey described as a “deafening applause” in the team meeting.

“All the hard work has paid off,” Harvey said.

“He’s just excited to be back in the team, and hopefully he can take off where he left it.

“It’s an opportunity for his family to go to the MCG – for that matter all our supporters in Melbourne.”

Harvey has even signalled that Barlow will not play as a sub on Sunday.

“We’ll just let him play and see how far he can go,” he said.

If Barlow is anywhere near the form he displayed in his stunning 2010 debut season, he will go a long way.

The former Werribee star averaged 28 disposals per game in his first 13 AFL appearances before his injury.

Full-Back Greg Broughton #6 Luke McPharlin # 18 Antoni Grover # 14

Half-Back Paul Duffield # 41 Michael Johnson # 37 Garrick Ibbotson # 5

Centre Nat Fyfe # 7 Matthew Pavlich # 29 Jesse Crichton # 44

Half-Forward Ryan Crowley # 15 Kepler Bradley # 26 Tendai Mzungu # 13

Full-Forward Clancee Pearce # 46 Chris Mayne # 23 Stephen Hill # 32

Ruck Jon Griffin # 12 Nick Lower # 34 Matt De Boer # 40

Interchange Zac Clarke # 30 Michael Barlow # 21 Ben Bucovaz # 33 Clayton Hinkley # 19 Josh Mellington # 25 Jay Van Berlo # 47 Rhys Palmer # 10

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