Barlow boost for Freo
Fremantle remains hopeful key clearance player Michael Barlow will be available to face the Sydney Swans at the SCG on Sunday, with a stoppage battle looming against the sixth-placed Swans.
Barlow has missed two games with soreness since making his return from a broken leg against Melbourne in round 13, but shapes as a key inclusion for Fremantle as it emerges from its second bye of the season.
The 23-year-old, who had 25 possessions and four clearances in his comeback game against the Demons, trained with Fremantle’s midfield group on Monday night and teammate Garrick Ibbotson said the side was hopeful he would be fit to face the Swans.
“He would be fantastic because he’s so good around that [stoppage] area,” Ibbotson said from Fremantle Oval on Monday.
“They (the Swans) do pride themselves on being good in that area, but it’s important for us as well to get our hard ball and contested ball going really well this week.
“We have put a lot of focus into that because of the way Sydney play their games, especially at the SCG.”
Fremantle has beaten the Swans in two of the teams’ last three meetings, including a 27-point win at the SCG in round nine last season – the club’s first win at the venue since 1996.
Ibbotson said the small ground would put a premium on contested ball and clearances this Sunday.
“Being able to get the ball out from those stoppages to a bit of space is an important thing,” he said.
“Having such a congested area to work in, it becomes really important when you get the ball to get your first hands on it and then get it out cleanly.
“That’s going to be a bit of a focus for us but it’s going to be a tough game anyway.”
Making Barlow’s potential inclusion against the Swans so important is the continued absence of clearance specialist David Mundy (leg) and No.1 ruckman Aaron Sandilands (toe).
The key pair remain between two and four weeks away from returning, but Fremantle will be boosted by half-back Nick Suban’s return from a broken leg through the WAFL this weekend.
Tough utility Adam McPhee is also closing in on a playing return and Ibbotson said it would be important to have the club’s best players available as it embarks on a challenging run to the finals.
“We have got a lot of guys in our team who are quite young still, so to have guys like Aaron Sandilands and David Mundy and those sort of guys back on the park would be fantastic for us,” he said.
“But I mean if they’re not going to be there then we need other guys to step up and fill that void.
“Whoever is going to be there at the time has to play really well.
“I think we’ve still got a really good side that’s going to be out on the park each week and I have complete faith that we can beat any side that we play.”