Hayes, Barlow Expect Successful AFL Returns

Star midfielders Lenny Hayes of St. Kilda and Michael Barlow of Fremantle are expecting to make strong AFL returns in 2012 after horrific injuries stunted their 2012 seasons.

Nash Herringtonby Nash Herrington

Hayes completed a terrific 2010 campaign, in which he was awarded the Norm Smith Medal in the first tied Grand Final, however the veteran blew out his knee early last year and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.

Barlow was on track to record one a very special debutant seasons when he broke his leg half way through the 2010 calendar.  The 24-year-old returned midway through 2011 but soreness hampered his play and he was only able to manage nine games.

Both players are looking at pain free round one returns in 2012.

Barlow returned to full practice with the main group last week and was able to get through a reported 40 minutes of simulated match practice. Training staff said that their young star is no longer experiencing the pain and soreness that limited him to 24 possessions a game last season, down from the 27.8 he averaged in his rookie year.

Hayes, a three time All-Australian, told The Age before the New Year that it would be optimistic to expect him to immediately return to his pre-injury form. He did say that he had never felt as fresh entering preseason training and he does have the backing of new Saints coach, Scott Watters, who would like the 31-year-old to continue for at least another two seasons.

Winner of the Trevor Barker medal for St Kilda's best & fairest player in 2010, Hayes is already back into contact exercises and his healthy presence will be a factor in the Saints returning to their successful form of the past few years.

Barlow returned in round 13 last year, but was immediately sent back to sidelines for a further two weeks after experiencing pain in his recovering leg. While he was still able to gather some high possession totals during the latter half of season, he was clearly missing some of the athletic qualities that made him so special the year before.

Fremantle’s 2010 campaign was a highly successful one considering the club’s history, or lack thereof, but injuries derailed their finals aspirations last season and the club missed out on a finals appearance after losing their last seven matches. Injuries to key players, including aging stars Matthew Pavlich and Aaron Sandilands, put the team in a rough position and the Western Australian side will be relying on health and some spectacular play from Barlow if they are to make another finals run in 2012.


Photo Source: The Australian