North Melbourne made waves at the AFL selection table on Thursday night but president James Brayshaw has bristled at suggestions the Kangaroos are trying to unfairly manipulate their finals destiny.
North followed Fremantle’s lead and rested almost half of their side for their clash against Richmond in a move that was approved by the AFL.
But while their selection decisions enhanced the Roos’ chances of playing in Melbourne in the first week of the finals, they also greatly diminished Adelaide’s hopes of hosting a home final.
The Crows were so aggrieved that they sought clarity from the AFL on the issue and questioned whether the rules governing the integrity of the game needed to be changed.
Brayshaw, however, defended the move that he said was designed purely to deliver the healthiest possible line-up in the first week of the finals.
“If people want to criticise us for managing our list so that we’ll be best placed to win a final in round one then I understand that – I don’t agree with it – but I understand it,” Brayshaw said on the Nine Network.
“But if there’s even a scintilla of inference that we as a footy club are deliberately trying to lose to dodge anyone the next week, that is totally fanciful and incorrect.
“At the end of the day you’ve only got a responsibility to your own club and to give yourself the best chance of winning a final.”
A defiant Brad Scott dropped a total of nine players – Nick Dal Santo, Jarrad Waite, Michael Firrito, Andrew Swallow, Shaun Higgins, Todd Goldstein, Sam Wright, Ben Cunnington and Scott Thompson.
Adding to the intrigue, only Dal Santo, Waite and Goldstein were officially listed as ‘managed’, with the rest listed with various injuries as the reason for their omissions.
Richmond, also bound for the finals, took a different selection tack and made just one change, strengthening their team with the addition of captain Trent Cotchin, returning from a back injury.
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon went two better than the Roos and told 11 players they wouldn’t have to make the trip to Port Adelaide on Saturday, with two of those changes due to injury.
Skipper Matthew Pavlich, Luke McPharlin, Aaron Sandilands, Michael Johnson, David Mundy, Lee Spurr, Danyle Pearce, Stephen Hill and Chris Mayne have all been rested, while Cameron Sutcliffe (shoulder) and Jon Griffin (hamstring) are sidelined Three Fremantle players – Ethan Hughes, Brady Grey and Connor Blakely – will make their AFL debuts.
The Western Bulldogs weren’t quite so dramatic but did rest veterans Bob Murphy, Dale Morris and Matthew Boyd for their trip north to take on Brisbane.
Adelaide need North Melbourne to defeat the Tigers to boost their chances of hosting a home final but the gutted Roos’ line-up is unlikely to be able help the South Australian club out.
The Crows, however, resisted the urge to rest any players and named an unchanged line-up for their clash with Geelong.