Ball magnet Michael Barlow has revealed that Fremantle's midfield resurgence is a result of a new attitude inspired by Sydney's 2005 premiership.
The Dockers dominated West Coast's midfield during Saturday's western derby, comprehensively winning the clearances, contested possessions and inside 50ms despite easily losing the hit-outs.
Barlow, David Mundy and Nat Fyfe each polled Ross Glendinning Medal votes, while Clancee Pearce continued his strong season and Ryan Crowley closed down Eagle Luke Shuey.
Barlow said coach Ross Lyon and assistant Mark Stone had regaled the team with stories about how Sydney's unfashionable midfield took the team to a flag through consistency and effort.
Now the Dockers are basing their games on a similar philosophy.
"They're probably not the most glamorous midfield that you put on paper over Sydney's history," Barlow said. "They've always been just hard-nosed and we want to drive something like that to Fremantle.
"I think we're on the right track with our personnel, and our selflessness is starting to shine through a little bit."
Having entered the AFL the hard way, Barlow didn't have to look far for inspiration.
Repeatedly overlooked at the draft table before finally getting a chance as a 22-year-old, Barlow turned to Brett Kirk.
The former Sydney co-captain also found it tough to get his break, but grabbed the opportunity with both hands and embodied the Swans' Bloods culture.
"I took a lot from a guy like Brett Kirk who played for his life every week without the God-given talent of some of the guys," Barlow said.
"I can relate to that, playing for your footy future every week regardless of how you've gone the week before.
"There's been moments in my career where I've probably become complacent with how I'm going.
"Hearing a little bit about him and understanding his journey means week to week it's a new war and a fresh start.
"You're representing what you stand for personally and how you want to portray yourself to your family, your friends and the fans."
Barlow said the midfield had endured some brutal meetings this season when the team struggled.
The on-ballers felt they'd been "holding the team captive" but now they entered every match with a clear understanding of what was required to compete, he said.
But the thumping win over West Coast would count for nothing when they ran on to AAMI Stadium to play Adelaide on Saturday.
"We're really looking forward to the challenge. I'd say Adelaide have got the best midfield group in the competition," Barlow said.
"Watching guys like (Scott) Thompson and the emergence of (Rory) Sloane and (Patrick) Dangerfield, it's mouth-watering to watch. Hopefully it's no so mouth-watering to watch next week.
"They beat up on us really badly last time. They won the clearances by about 25. Fortunately for us, about 10 weeks has passed and we've been able to get some personnel back, get our heads around the system and put it into practice.""I think we're on the right track with our personnel, and our selflessness is starting to shine through a little bit."" *Michael Barlow *
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