The full extent of the AFL’s temporary player drain is about to be revealed as top-eight teams try to freshen up a week from the finals.
Fremantle will lead the changes in Thursday night selections for round 23, with up to 11 players to sit out the match against Port Adelaide.
Coach Ross Lyon has confirmed captain Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands, Luke McPharlin, David Mundy, Stephen Hill and Lee Spurr will miss Saturday’s match against Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.
It is the ultimate dead rubber, with Fremantle guaranteed top spot and Port Adelaide out of finals contention.
Lachie Neale, Danyle Pearce, Nick Suban, Michael Barlow, Michael Johnson, Chris Mayne, and Garrick Ibbotson are among other front-line Dockers who could have an early-September spell.
Brownlow Medal favourite Nat Fyfe is already sidelined with a leg injury, with the Dockers hopeful he will return for their qualifying final, while Connor Blakely will make his senior debut.
Lyon similarly rested a large group of players the week before the start of Fremantle’s 2013 finals series, which ended with the grand final loss to Hawthorn.
There has also been strong speculation North Melbourne will rest key players ahead of Friday night’s match against Richmond.
Todd Goldstein is nursing a sore hip, while Brent Harvey and Drew Petrie would be other obvious candidates.
But a home elimination final could hinge on the result, given only one game separates Richmond, the Western Bulldogs, Adelaide and North Melbourne from fifth to eighth on the ladder.
The Tigers are set to regain captain Trent Cotchin, who missed last weekend’s win over Essendon because of back soreness.
Western Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy said on Wednesday that he would play in Saturday’s away match against bottom side Brisbane.
Murphy also does not expect the Bulldogs to make many changes for the game.