Gutsy Barlow a Shaw thing
Michael Barlow protects his broken thumb while taking a mark against Port Adelaide last Saturday. Pic: Getty Images

Michael Barlow's effort to return early and play through the pain of a broken thumb has been labelled "gutsy", with Collingwood's 1990 premiership captain Tony Shaw saying the act would inspire his Fremantle teammates in this month's finals series.

The Dockers midfielder made a surprise return for last Saturday's crunch win over Port Adelaide at Patersons Stadium just a fortnight after seriously injuring his left thumb.

He starred with 27 disposals against the Power despite heavy strapping around the digit and will be crucial to overcoming Sydney's midfield in tomorrow's first qualifying final at ANZ Stadium.

Shaw, who witnessed the late Darren Millane play with a badly broken thumb for seven weeks culminating in Collingwood's 1990 premiership win, said Barlow's return after missing just one game was equally heroic.

Asked if it would inspire Barlow's teammates, Shaw said: "Yes. I think everybody respects Michael Barlow.

"You'd still be feeling pain with it.

"The thumb is pretty well integral to what you're doing. Your ball work is your ball work.

"I think he's a bit of the old school type player too. He understands you're playing finals.

"If you're out of the race with a couple of weeks to go, Millane mightn't have played at all, but we knew where we were going.

"You hope he (Barlow) doesn't hurt it any more, but the medicos will know and I think the coach would have enormous faith."

Millane's bravery was lauded after playing in Collingwood's 1990 finals campaign with a thumb that had been fractured in three places.

The champion wingman was particularly influential in the grand final win against Essendon, finishing with 24 disposals to be one of the Magpies' best.

"Millane used to get jabbed every break of every quarter, just an injection through the strapping," Shaw said.

"The strapping was like a boxer would strap his hands over his clenched fist.

"He used to have that around the thumb. They'd cut the strapping off after the game.

"He'd pull his finger out and wince once the thumb hit part of the jumper. That's how sore it was.

"He'd put it in plaster and then he'd train the whole week in plaster and then he'd go through the whole thing again. It really takes a lot of force, your thumb. It was a pretty gutsy effort over a long period of time.

"He was a pretty tough hombre.

"The players appreciated what he was going through to get out on the ground, just like they will with Barlow."

Fremantle will regain star on-baller Nat Fyfe from his two-week suspension for the clash, but Shaw said Sydney's midfield would be no pushover.

"They go pretty deep in the midfield as well," Shaw said.

"They're going to get Josh Kennedy back and (Ben) McGlynn. McGlynn's been a sensation this year working from a small forward now into the midfield.

"You wouldn't want to underestimate him."

The West Australian

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