Fremantle midfielder Michael Barlow is anxious, but it’s not his up-in-the-air contract situation that’s leaving him wobbly in the legs.
Barlow’s future was in jeopardy in May after he was dropped to the WAFL following an inconsistent start to the season.
But the 28-year-old has saved his career after starring as a tagger in the past three weeks.
His finest game was last week’s 17-point win over Port Adelaide, in which he tallied 43 disposals, 20 contested possessions, nine clearances, eight tackles and two goals.
Tellingly, he restricted opponent Robbie Gray to just 18 possessions.
Barlow is out of contract at the end of 2016, but the Dockers are almost certain to offer him a new deal given his recent form revival.
And the 124-game veteran insists he has several more years left in him at the top level.
“It’s hard to believe I’m only 28 given some of the things you read and hear about the place,” Barlow said on Monday.
“You always doubt yourself. I’m still doubting myself now. There’s no perfect science to being an AFL footballer.
“I’d be lying if you don’t say you don’t think about where you stand within the football club, contractually.
“But personally, I know I’ve got a lot of AFL football left in me. I’m really confident in my form and the year I’ve had.”
Barlow has been reinvigorated since being handed his new job as a tagger, restricting David Zaharakis, Daniel Rich, and Gray during Fremantle’s three-match winning run.
But while it seems as though Barlow has taken to the new role like a duck to water, he admits it takes a toll.
“It’s an anxious kind of role,” Barlow said.
“It’s something that’s kept me on edge for the last three or four weeks.”
Luckily, Barlow has been able to lean on someone with vast tagging experience – former teammate and current Bombers midfielder Ryan Crowley.
“The advice I’m getting from Crowls is about how to cope with those anxieties and concentrate on what you can control,” Barlow said.
“Crowls might consider himself my mental coach from across the Nullarbor.”
Barlow is set to get the job on either Scott Pendlebury or Steele Sidebottom in Friday night’s clash with Collingwood at the MCG.
Barlow and teammate Lee Spurr joined forces on Monday to help sell The Big Issue to mark the magazine’s 20-year anniversary.
The magazine gives homeless and disadvantaged people a chance to make ends meet by working as vendors.
“Lee got me again – three sales to two,” Barlow said with a laugh.
“I won’t hear the end of that until we have another go at it.”