If there was a positive to emerge from Fremantle’s heartbreaking loss to West Coast on Sunday night, it was that key midfielder Michael Barlow appears capable of staying fit and returning to his best form.

Barlow, who has faced hurdles in his return from a broken leg this year, was superb on Sunday, finishing with four inside 50s and four clearances, and winning 14 of his 26 possessions in contests.
Significantly, the 23-year-old played four quarters, managing to have an impact in the midfield despite the aerial dominance of West Coast ruckman Dean Cox, who gave his side a 53-18 edge in hit-outs.

Barlow’s first game this season was against Melbourne in round 13, but he missed the following two matches with soreness, casting doubt over whether he could stay fit.

He was used as a substitute against the Sydney Swans in round 17 and had 11 possessions in 25 minutes, with Fremantle surely anxious to see how he would back up that performance in a full game on Sunday.

Coach Mark Harvey said Barlow, who shapes as a key to his team’s finals chances, should now be able to string a series of full games together.

“I don’t see any reason why he might not come up, but in the end we’ll see how he pulls up over the next couple of days,” the coach said.

“I would envisage that he plays the rest of the year.

“His courage and how he’s gone about it, and what he’s starting to do is on display and everyone inside the footy club is excited about him getting back to his best.

“I thought he was starting to show some real signs of starting to get back to his best.”

Fremantle faces the prospect of meeting Hawthorn next Saturday night still without stoppage specialists Aaron Sandilands and David Mundy, who are recovering from injury.

Their absence would make the continued form of Barlow and Greg Broughton, who has flourished as an onballer, even more important with the side’s spot in the top eight on the line.

Defender Dylan Roberton said the team’s midfielders sparked Sunday’s thrilling fight-back and the lift Barlow game the team was “massive”.

“He can play outside and inside and he just plays with good spirit and gets everyone up,” Roberton said.

“They [the midfielders] were all in their fighting. We didn’t have many rotations, so we were just trying to get it forward.

“Everyone’s a bit flat. We fought really hard to get back in the game.”

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