The pain of a preliminary final exit for minor premiers, Fremantle, still hurts.
“You never really do (get over it),” Dockers star, Michael Barlow, says.
“To fall short, it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. It’s a good time to get away and have a few months off from the grind of it all.”
Barlow is in Narrandera, conducting coaching clinics for primary and secondary students free-of-charge.
But getting away from it all doesn’t mean that the pain – not to mention a siege mentality – isn’t already driving them into 2016.
“Certainly. People are pretty quick to write our team off,” he said.
“There’ll be the doubters to what we can achieve but within the four walls of the footy club, we’re highly motivated and have a strong belief in ourselves and the coaching staff.”
Barlow is convinced that under coach Ross Lyon the Dockers are still improving.
“It’s four years now that we’ve played finals… we made the grand final in 2013 but the next year we finished higher on the ladder, and then won the minor premiership (this year),” he said.
“We’ve added layers to our game and little achievements each year.”
It’s hard to tell if it’s ‘Ross Lyon-speak’, but layers are obviously part of the fabric at Fremantle.
Barlow says he needs to keep adding them to his own game after spending more time forward this year.
And there are layers to Barlow the person as well as Barlow the footballer.
The Narrandera visit wasn’t done out of obligation, or purely as a favour for schoolmate Tim Sullivan.
Growing up in country Victoria, and with his parents a couple of hours drive away at Cobram, Barlow said he feels more at home in rural NSW than at school visits in Perth or Fremantle.
Overlooked a couple of times in the draft, the 27-year is a living example of persistence paying off.
But his is a message broader than football, and deeper than just not giving up.
“I try to put myself in their shoes, when I was their age,” he said.
“I say, ‘try your hand at everything and if you find something you really love doing, pursue it as much as you can.’
“My background was football and sport but I try to encourage what they enjoy and what drives them, whether that be music or education or helping people.”
That respect for individuality is something Barlow admires in Lyon.
“He’s a great teacher,” he said.
“He gives you a clip when you need a clip but he has your best interests at heart.
“He wants you to achieve as a footballer obviously but also as a person.”
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