BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 13: Freemantle coach Justin Longmuir talks to his team during the round 2 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Fremantle Dockers at The Gabba on June 13, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Jono Searle/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

Ex-Fremantle midfielder Michael Barlow has urged his former club to consider state league stars as a potential reinforcement for battling Dockers skipper Nat Fyfe.

The dual Brownlow medallist is facing a delayed return to training following a string of setbacks with his shoulder injury, having undergone surgery this off-season and subsequently discovering a bacterial infection.

With a clouded bill of health handing the veteran onballer an uphill battle for 2022, the Dockers will be sure to place a greater degree of attention toward their midfield depths.

Justin Longmuir's engine room ensemble already took a major hit with the departure of Adam Cerra to Carlton, with Will Brodie's arrival set to aid Fremantle's strength in the pecking order.

With Fyfe's presence to potentially be missed come the early rounds of next year should further setbacks emerge, Brodie would frame as a leading candidate to fill the void in midfield.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JULY 01: Nathan Fyfe and Michael Walters of the Dockers walk from the field after being defeated during the round 15 AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Brisbane Lions at Optus Stadium on July 1, 2018 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

While the 23-year-old could reach new heights of his career in purple, Barlow is of the belief that a number of WAFL stars could be bargain selections for Fremantle in hope of strengthening their depths.

Subiaco premiership star Greg Clark and 2021 Sandover medallist Bailey Rogers are seen as the cream of the crop from the western border, having both enjoyed stellar seasons in WA's top tier this year.

Speaking to The West AustralianBarlow said the Dockers should be favouring the star WAFL duo over the likes of Brodie.

"Will has to prove he’s at the standard. It’s a fair cherry for someone like him right now to stand up and say ‘I’m going to go and grab that spot’.

“On top of that, guys like Clark and Rogers, they’re a safe bet I feel.

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“If they’re looking for some depth in the midfield to assist the up and comers like (Andy) Brayshaw and (Caleb) Serong who are going to be stars, it seems like a feasible approach to bring in those ready-made midfielders from WA who are low risk.”

Rogers claimed his maiden Sandover Medal as the WAFL's best and fairest for this season, averaging 26.9 disposals, six marks and 1.1 goals per game.

Clark claimed the best afield honours in Subiaco's grand final win over South Fremantle, taking home the Simpson Medal and the premiership cup to cap off a compelling campaign with the Lions.

A mature-aged selection to Fremantle himself, Barlow stated that clubs should be eyeing older heads from the WAFL and SANFL this off-season following the stunt in development in other regions of the country.

“They’re proven footballers and they might not be spruiked in terms of having the potential to be that one-in-1000 sort of player you can find at the top end of the draft, but what you do get is a more reliable product,” he added.

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“There’s always risk and reward when it comes to younger players. The high-end ones, there’s a higher probability that they’re going to be really good but once you get down to the lower end of the draft, rookie lists and mid-season drafts, I’m big on giving mature age players a crack.

“I’d imagine if there are to be mature age draftees this year, WA and South Australia should have a fair mortgage on them because of the amount of football they’ve played the past two years.”

The Dockers currently holds Picks 6, 8, 19, 61, 69 and 84, heading into the National Draft with one of the strongest hands.

While the Dockers are likely to eye more key-position talent earlier into the count, the likes of Clark and Rogers could call Cockburn home via the Dockers' later selections or via the Rookie Draft on November 26.

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