Matthews backs AFL pre-finals bye

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Matthews backs AFL pre-finals bye

AFL legend Leigh Matthews wants the pre-finals bye to continue, saying it deserves another chance.

But he is a dissenting voice, with Fremantle coach Ross Lyon notably joining the growing call for the concept to be scrapped.

The preliminary final results have given the league’s anti-bye camp plenty of ammunition.

Geelong and the Giants lost the prelims after only playing once in just under four weeks.

The bye weekend before the finals was introduced to make sure teams did not rest players en masse in round 23.

And Matthews, who was part of eight premiership teams as a player and coach, said the concept should go ahead again next season.

He noted that the top eight was extremely tight this season, with only two games and percentage separating minor premiers Sydney from the seventh-placed Western Bulldogs.

“I’d give that another go,” Matthews told Channel Seven’s Game Day.

“What’s confusing is remember, the Bulldogs won 15 games – they finished seventh, but they won 15 games.”

Lyon is just as adamant that the pre-finals bye should go.

He said it took away too much from the well-established advantage of finishing in the top four and the double chance that comes with it.

“We’re creatures of habit – man’s made to work,” Lyon told Fox Footy on Friday night.

“Once you break that cycle, it’s impossible to recreate an AFL senior game and you’ve got to be rewarded for winning the most games, the top four.”

Four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson has also voiced his opposition, calling the concept a massive curve ball for the finals.

The Bulldogs are the first team in AFL history to make the grand final from seventh.

Defender Dale Morris said the pre-finals bye were a massive boost for them.

But Morris, like many players, does not want it to continue.

“It definitely did help us – we had some guys in Jackson Macrae and Libba (Tom Liberatore) who really benefitted from the bye,” Morris said.

“The debate will go on and on, whether it hindered the two teams who did have it.

“My preference would be to play through without the bye, but we’ll do whatever it takes.”

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