The West

Flat Freo not good enough: Barlow
Flat Freo not good enough: Barlow

The 84-point NAB Challenge thrashing from West Coast was a reminder that a strong season won't just happen again for Fremantle in 2014, according to midfielder Michael Barlow.

Barlow described the Eagles as the "real deal" in the wake of the lopsided result on Tuesday, saying the Dockers were far from surprised by their rivals' pre- season form.

"I have said all along that they probably underperformed last year and didn't have a really good run at it with personnel and injuries," he said.

"We always knew that West Coast were going to be much improved on what they displayed last year and I think they are definitely the real deal."

Barlow said the Dockers' performance in their opening hit-out for the year had been unacceptable, but they wouldn't panic with less than a month until their March 14 season opener against Collingwood.

"We are probably four weeks behind West Coast," Barlow said.

"I am not sure what their training regime is like at the moment, but we're still in a pretty heavy load.

"We have two more 100-minute games, essentially, before round one.

"That's our focus at the moment, getting minutes into key personnel and getting form into blokes who might have missed a chunk of the pre-season.

"But on the performance (on Tuesday) I am not making any excuses at all because that wasn't good enough and it wasn't what we stand for as a football club."

Barlow, who finished his day with 22 disposals and a goal, said improvements would need to be made across the playing group.

"Some of the younger guys that have had really good pre-seasons and put their name up in lights have probably had a look and realised the step they have got to take to make sure this club keeps going forward," he said.

"Our mainstay players have also got to understand that we have got to go to football war for another season and not be able to rest on our laurels.

"We definitely understand the challenge to get to where we were last year.

"We have got four weeks to get minutes into guys and training standards to a point where we can compete and open the season on a positive note against Collingwood."

Barlow was glowing in his praise of young midfielder Lachie Neale, who was one of the few shining lights for Fremantle in the match, collecting 26 possessions and kicking a goal.

He said the improvements Neale had made in his defensive game had allowed him to break into Fremantle's side last year.

"He is really hungry to put some pressure on guys like myself and Dave (Mundy), Nathan (Fyfe) and Stephen (Hill) and the other guys who have probably been in there continually over the last three or four years," Barlow said.

Hayden Ballantyne, who was on crutches after Tuesday's match, has a corked leg.

The West Australian

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