It’s taken some 22 rounds but finally the AFL has found a high-profile supporter of the pre-finals bye.
The league, concerned with the trend of clubs resting players en masse in the final round, this year introduced a week off between the regular season and finals.
A recent poll indicated all 18 coaches were against the post-season bye but Western Bulldogs mentor Luke Beveridge has since changed his tune.
Beveridge’s new stance isn’t a result of the league’s push for a ‘celebration of football’ week but the Bulldogs’ injury list.
The extra week off will give injured stand-in skipper Easton Wood, plus star midfielders Tom Liberatore and Jack Macrae, a fighting chance of being fit for the club’s first final.
“When it was initially floated, I liked the idea of continuity,” Beveridge said on Tuesday.
“Survival of the fittest and last man standing … (but now) out of all the teams in the top eight, it suits us a little bit better.
“We’re really optimistic we might get him (Wood) for the first final.
“Jack’s more of a chance than Tom but both of them are a chance.”
Geelong coach Chris Scott expects the experiment won’t last beyond 2016.
“My suspicion is this will be a one and only,” Scott told Fox Footy.
“We’d prefer it wasn’t there.
“The AFL’s position was that they didn’t want players rested en masse before the finals.
“I never saw the problem in that – the integrity issue.
“I know some of the key decision makers at the AFL love continuity in the season. This seems to be a lack of continuity at the most-important time.”
The fixture tweak means two sides will enter their preliminary final having played just one game in the past three weeks.
Many players, pundits and coaches have speculated that the reward of finishing in the top four will be diminished as a result.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what we do. We’ve got (Adelaide high performance guru) Brett Burton and the coaches already planning,” Adelaide skipper Taylor Walker told Fox Footy.
“I’m sure most teams will probably train hard.
“Try to simulate a bit of game awareness … so your contact and physical stuff are up to speed when you need to play the week after.”