Fremantle midfielder Michael Barlow says he is in a "really good headspace" as he prepares to start a round-one game for the first time since his debut 2010 season.
After more than two years dealing with the effects of an horrific broken leg, the 25-year-old is preparing to line up against West Coast on March 23 with full faith in his body to withstand the hectic nature of AFL stoppages.
"Last year I was monitored after Christmas a lot and was really struggling," Barlow said yesterday.
"I've been really blessed over the last nine months to be able to have real continuity in training, to be able to train twice a week and play on the weekend without too much concern about how the leg is going to pull up.
"I'm really excited, from a personal note, but I think across the board we're really excited with the health of our list and the position we've got ourselves in over the summer."
Barlow gathered 17 disposals in the Dockers' 109-point thrashing of a young Western Bulldogs side in Mandurah on Saturday, complementing fellow midfield stars Nat Fyfe (30 disposals, eight clearances) and David Mundy (24 disposals, four clearances).
The dominant display by the Fremantle engine room was a far cry from their effort the previous week against Carlton.
They were easily outperformed in clearances (42-30) and contested possessions (154-115) in a 70-point thrashing when Barlow and Stephen Hill were on the sidelines.
With key forwards Matthew Pavlich and Chris Mayne undercooked because of injury, the efforts of the midfield will be all the more important come round one.
"The midfield has had a really good summer together, growing from (midfield coach) Brett Kirk and (stoppage coach) Mark Stone as our midfield mentors," Barlow said.
"We're in a really good position but there's no bigger test for us in a couple of weeks than one of the premier midfields in the comp in West Coast."Round one is always, from my experience, just that little added tempo … but to add a derby into the mix is really exciting for the Fremantle footy club as well as the West Coast footy club and the State in general."
Should the AFL interfere in the running of Melbourne Football Club?Vote
Do you have a story for us to investigate?
'The West Australian' is a trademark of West Australian Newspapers Limited 2013.
All rights reserved.
Select your state to see news for your area.