Midfielder Michael Barlow concedes Fremantle have been let down by Hayden Ballantyne's latest suspension, but says he is still worthy of a place in the leadership group.
The Dockers yesterday accepted a one-match ban for Ballantyne that will sideline him for their clash with Essendon at Patersons Stadium on Saturday week.
It is the second time this season the 24-year-old has been suspended for an off-the-ball indiscretion.
Ballantyne was charged with striking after elbowing Richmond captain Chris Newman in the stomach during the second quarter of last Saturday's win at the MCG.
His avoidable absence is made worse by the fact that Aaron Sandilands (toe) and Zac Dawson (knee) will also be missing.
Sandilands said he would not have surgery on his injured big toe on his right foot after consulting a specialist yesterday.
The same route was taken with an identical injury suffered to the left foot last season.
"They just reckon the best way for it to heal is going to be rest," Sandilands told Seven News.
Stephen Hill is another Docker in doubt for the Essendon match with an ankle injury. The speedster was not sighted at yesterday's training session at Fremantle Oval.
Barlow said the way Ballantyne played the game had become an issue for the small forward.
"I think the playing group are probably a little bit disappointed, but more so Hayden in himself," Barlow said.
"He understands if the Fremantle Football Club are going to go forward, he's got to be out there. He's definitely in our best 22 players and a real weapon for us.
"Hayden personally probably carries more burden than anyone and he probably just can't wait to wash it under the carpet and move forward and put that sort of stuff behind him because we value him."
Barlow said Ballantyne had been appointed to the leadership group during the pre-season because he extracted plenty from his teammates and was a good mentor for the club's younger players.
"His spot in the leadership group I can't question because we voted him for a reason," Barlow said.
Barlow has played all 11 matches this season but has not recaptured the form he showed before breaking his leg in 2010. He is ranked first at the club for clearances, but is one of the worst offenders in terms of disposal efficiency at 60 per cent.
"You're never perfect," Barlow said. "Fortunately for me my body's really responding. It's been about two years now since my injury.
"It's probably always going to be an area of speculation and concern for some people, but the confidence that I've probably got out of my continuity of training and playing over the last month is just enormous.
"The last month is the first time since my injury that I've been able to string two training sessions together, be in the main program, train both days each week and play full games and pull up really well."
"I think the playing group are probably a little bit disappointed, but more so Hayden in himself."" *Michael Barlow *on Hayden Ballantyne * *