Michael Barlow has age on his side in his battle to recover from a broken leg and show his best in the AFL is yet to come, according to former Western Bulldogs and Richmond star Nathan Brown.

Brown, who admitted he erred in pushing too hard to come back from a similar injury in 2005, refused to believe Barlow could not better the brilliant form of his 2010 debut season.

Fremantle’s midfield gun proved to be the recruit of that season before snapping his leg in round 14.

Barlow returned last year to average 24 possessions in nine games, but had issues with soreness and has had his pre-season campaign modified.

The 24-year-old has since ramped up his running at training in a bid to be ready for the start of the season.

Brown said the pair caught up over coffee in Melbourne during last year’s finals and he backed Barlow to have a big impact in 2012 as long as he and the club proceeded with caution.

Brown was 27 and in the 167th of 219 career games when he broke his leg. His return to football was blighted by a string of soft-tissue injuries.

Barlow was just 22 and in his 13th match after being secured by Fremantle as a mature-age recruit.

“It felt like every time I pushed myself when it started to get better, I’d get sore again,” Brown said.

“I tried to push it a bit early a few times. Everybody tells you to wait and not to rush it, but obviously you just want to get out there.

“I should have listened more rather than think I knew how to do it all by myself.

“In the pre-season of ’07 I was flying, then I had a stress fracture and never got back to where I was after that.

“But that’s not the case with Michael, he’s still a young man and still has many years to go.

“He’s in a good, young, developing side and it’s not like Fremantle are going to bottom out any time soon, so he doesn’t need to rush it. He can take his time and be part of a really successful era over there. I think he’ll be back 100 per cent, but caution is the thing.

“He has to be very smart after games and wouldn’t want to do two sessions in a row during the week. But game-time, just get as much in as you can and the leg will build strength.

“I just hope he does well because I know how hard it is coming back.

Brown’s former coach Terry Wallace, who also had current Tigers captain Chris Newman break a leg under his watch in 2006, said Richmond medicos had tried to use the broken leg of Liverpool’s Djibril Cisse in 2004 as an example when trying to map Brown’s recovery, but soon realised there could be major differences.

“What people have to understand is that they think it is just a bone break,” Wallace said.

“In the case of Chris Newman it was a complete clean snap of the bone and very little damage to the surrounding area.

“Browny’s was completely different and there was even massive change to the muscle definition.

“The areas around the break will never, ever be exactly the same as they were because of the dynamic changes.

“I’m not trying to tell the (Fremantle) medical staff or Ross (Lyon) how to do his job, but the one thing I learnt is that every single time we tried to push too hard, we had a setback. So the only thing I would say is baby steps, baby steps to try and get your result.”

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