Fremantle have announced they are likely to rest about 11 players for Saturday’s clash with the Power in Adelaide – and the AFL will let them do it.
The Dockers are guaranteed to finish on top of the table after beating Melbourne by 54 points on Sunday.
The situation means Fremantle have nothing to gain but plenty to lose from their final-round clash with Port Adelaide.
After Sunday’s win over Melbourne, Dockers coach Ross Lyon flagged the prospect of resting a host of his “fatigued” players in preparation for the finals.
And Fremantle confirmed that position on Monday when they released a statement saying their “initial assessment” suggests that roughly 11 players will be rested for the upcoming match.
The Dockers didn’t name which players were in line for a rest, but Matthew Pavlich, Luke McPharlin, Aaron Sandilands, Stephen Hill, David Mundy, Lachie Neale, Danyle Pearce, Michael Barlow, Chris Mayne and Garrick Ibbotson appear the most likely to be given the week off.
Defender Cameron Sutcliffe is also expected to miss after dislocating his shoulder against the Demons.
Nat Fyfe (leg) and Hayden Ballantyne (pectoral) had already been ruled out, meaning they fall outside that list of 11.
Goalsneak Michael Walters is almost certain to remain on the sidelines after missing the Demons clash because of a calf injury.
The AFL tightened their rules regarding bulk resting in 2013 after Fremantle sent across a ‘B’ team to face St Kilda in the final round of that season.
The Dockers made 11 changes for that match and were subsequently thrashed by 71 points in a situation that caused chaos among betting markets.
However, the tactic worked beautifully for the Dockers, who brought back their stars the very next week for a shock qualifying final win over Geelong at Simonds Stadium.
Under the AFL’s new integrity rules, teams can still rest players to manage fatigue or injuries, but they can’t do it to improve their draft position or manipulate their position on the ladder.
That terminology still gives Fremantle enough scope to bulk rest their stars – and the AFL confirmed on Monday they will not stop the Dockers from following through on their controversial plan.
“Fremantle is entitled to consider the management of injury and fatigue for its players before the upcoming finals series and the AFL position is the club is fully complying with the AFL’s rules,” the AFL said in a statement.
Complicating matters is the fact that Fremantle’s WAFL affiliate Peel Thunder will be playing a qualifying final against West Perth on Sunday.
It will be Peel’s first finals outing since entering the competition in 1997.
With Fremantle needing to recruit a host of their fringe players this week, the Thunder’s squad will be forced to play the most important match in the club’s history without a core of their stars.
Dockers chief executive Steve Rosich said a final call on who needs a rest will be made after Tuesday’s meeting between the coaches and medical staff.
Craig Moller, Jesse Crichton, Jack Hannath, Peter Faulks, Alex Forster, Josh Mellington and Josh Simpson were all handed rare starts when Fremantle last fielded a ‘B’ team in 2013.
Moller and Hannath are in line to get another crack, but the rest of those fringe players have since been delisted.