Barlow looks to switch gears
Fremantle midfielder Michael Barlow is hopeful he can “tick into gear” and play his best football in the second half of the season as the club looks to counter the loss of star ruckman Aaron Sandilands.
Barlow has played every game this season and averaged 23 disposals and four clearances, but his form has been inconsistent after soreness in his rebuilt left leg interrupted his pre-season.
The 24-year-old enjoyed one of his best games for the season against Richmond, however, and said he was benefiting from consistency in his training and game time in recent weeks.
“The last month is the first time since my injury (in 2010) I’ve been able to string two training sessions together and play full games and pull up really well,” Barlow said on Tuesday.
“I’m really hoping I can benefit from that and I’m hoping after the bye it’ll really tick into gear.
“It could take a little bit of time still, but the more training I can do and the more continuity of training, the better I’m going to feel.
“The confidence I’ve got out of my continuity of training and playing over the last month is just enormous.”
Barlow will be a key player for Fremantle in the second half of the season as the club seeks to improve its stoppage work without Sandilands, who led the AFL for average hit-outs before suffering another case of ‘turf toe’ against Richmond.
The 2009 club champion will be sidelined for up to 10 weeks with the tendon injury, opening the door for Jon Griffin, who Barlow said would slot seamlessly into the No.1 ruck role.
“It’s a massive loss for us, really disappointing for Aaron personally and definitely us as a midfield group and a collective,” Barlow said.
“In saying that, Jon Griffin was able to carry the load on Saturday and he’s actually been in really good form. He’s probably just a little bit of a victim of circumstance through the year.
“He’s been going really well and I think the weekend really illustrates that. We’re confident he can contribute and be in our best 22 even when Aaron gets back.”
Barlow said the midfielders would have to be more defensively aware with Griffin in the ruck, but the change in big men would make the on-ballers less predictable at stoppages.
Fremantle will also be without Hayden Ballantyne against Essendon following the club’s round 12 bye after the fiery forward accepted a one-match ban for striking Richmond captain Chris Newman.
Barlow said ill-discipline had become an issue for Ballantyne, who was elevated into the club’s leadership group pre-season but has since been suspended twice for off-the-ball hits.
“Ross did pull him up after the first incident earlier in the year and he’s gone some way to rectifying those kinds of habits and little antics he does get up to,” Barlow said.
“The playing group are a little bit disappointed, but more so Hayden in himself. He understands if the Fremantle Football Club is going to go forward he’s got to be out there, he’s definitely in out best 22 players and a real weapon for us.
“With those actions he’s probably letting himself down, but there is a reason why he’s in the leadership group and that’s because the club really values him.
“We voted him [in there] for a reason and we’re right behind him.”