Werribee has kicked off its 2019 recruiting campaign with a bang by enticing favourite son Michael Barlow back home.
The former star Fremantle and Gold Coast midfielder returns to Avalon Airport Oval as playing assistant coach under new senior coach Mark “Choco” Williams.
Barlow, who played 38 VFL games in two seasons at Chirnside Park before carving out a 141-game AFL career, said he had been keen to make an early commitment to the club that gave him his start in elite football and begin working and training as soon as possible.
“I’ve always had a really strong affiliation with the place through the opportunities it first gave me,” the 30-year-old said of his decision to return to Werribee.
“It all feels pretty familiar, though there’s obviously a really new exciting facility.
“The ability to continue to play and get that fix while upskilling myself under Mark Williams in an assistant coaching capacity and working with some really driven players appealed to me pretty strongly.”
Barlow’s AFL opportunity came on the back of a stellar 2009 campaign with Werribee, during which he finished second in the J.J. Liston Trophy count and won both the Fothergill-Round Medal as the VFL’s most promising young player and the Bruce Montgomery Trophy as his club’s best and fairest.
He was taken by Fremantle in the 2010 Rookie Draft and played 126 games in his six years with the Dockers before playing a further 15 in his two years at the Gold Coast.
His AFL career highlights include being named the AFL Players’ Association’s Best First-Year Player in 2010, winning the Ross Glendinning Medal as best afield in the Western Derby in both 2010 and 2013, and being named one of Fremantle’s best in its narrow 2013 Grand Final loss to Hawthorn.
Along the way, he has shown great tenacity, bouncing back from a serious leg break in his first year at the Dockers and another in his first year at the Suns, both of which threatened to end his career.
Werribee football operations manager Stuart Balloch said Barlow was a massive signing for the club.
“To say the club is thrilled would be an understatement. It’s a great coup,” said Balloch
“We have followed Mick’s journey since getting drafted, and to see him come back and continue to develop in our program as a coach is testament to the direction that our program is headed and also demonstrates his passion for our club.
“He is a hugely respected and popular person within the industry, so I have no doubt he will be welcomed by all and that he still has much to offer on the field given his 2018 AFL and NEAFL form.”