Barlow sure Dockers have hunger to burn

Craig O'Donoghue
Ever-reliable Michael Barlow has developed into one of Fremantle’s finest in his first 100 games. Picture: Steve Ferrier/WA News

Midfielder Michael Barlow has dismissed concerns about Fremantle’s lack of hunger against Richmond on Friday night, saying he treats every game like a grand final.

The Dockers were stunned by Richmond’s first quarter and conceded eight goals. The team was attempting to win a club record 10 games in a row and coach Ross Lyon said the players would have to work on their desire against Gold Coast on Saturday.

Barlow will be playing his 100th game this week but, after after having to wait until he was 22 to play AFL, said hunger was never a problem.

“I play every week as if it’s basically like my grand final,” Barlow explained.

“I can’t allow myself to slip or deviate too far from my personal standards otherwise I compromise myself and in turn compromise the team. I’m really motivated by maintaining a high standard. That’s all my focus is at the moment.

“We hold ourselves to a really high standard and we’ll review games regardless of the result really stringently. We don’t sweep anything under the carpet because maybe we got out of jail and had a close win.

“And likewise, we won’t hide from anything or jump too much at shadows if the result like the weekend didn’t go our way.”

In a sign of the club’s standards, Barlow revealed he had been criticised for his match winning banana goal against Adelaide because he didn’t centre the ball.

Barlow said the midfield had to improve this week and make the most of Aaron Sandilands’ dominant ruckwork.

The Dockers have won the ruck taps 158-57 in the last two games and led the clearances 104-83, but that dominance hasn’t been reflected on the scoreboard. Barlow said teams were clearly studying Fremantle’s ruck strategies.

“All the teams across the competition would see Aaron and our midfield set up as influential to stop to try and get a result. We acknowledge that is going to happen week in, week out,” Barlow said.

“We’ve got to be better as a midfield group - from Aaron through to Nathan, David, myself, Lachie Neale - to make sure we’re holding up our end of the bargain for the other lines like the forwards and the backs to do their job.”

Barlow paid tribute to his former mentors - VFL coach Simon Atkins, Shepparton United coaches Brad and Steve Hazelman, and committeeman Craig Blizzard - for having an enormous impact on his career.

AFL clubs rarely drafted mature age players in the early 2000s, but there has been a swing towards recruiting from the state league senior competitions in recent years.

Barlow said it was nice to be considered a success story but he didn’t consider himself a poster boy for mature aged players.