Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has revealed the names of six of the players he’ll rest this week, and insists he’s prepared to cop the blame if his controversial plan backfires.
The Dockers are set to rest up to 11 of their stars for Saturday’s AFL clash with the Power at Adelaide Oval.
Lyon confirmed skipper Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands, Luke McPharlin, David Mundy, Stephen Hill, and Lee Spurr would definitely be rested.
Others who could be rested include Lachie Neale, Danyle Pearce, Nick Suban, Michael Barlow, Michael Johnson, Chris Mayne, and Garrick Ibbotson.
Lyon said Connor Blakely – the No.34 pick from last year’s national draft – will make his AFL debut this week after recovering from an ankle issue.
Fremantle, who are guaranteed to finish first even if they lose to Port, hope the move to bulk rest players will leave the majority of their team fresh for the start of the finals.
Lyon pulled off a similar move in the final round of the 2013 campaign.
On that occasion Lyon rested 11 of his players, with the Fremantle ‘B’ team copping a 71-point hammering at the hands of the 16th-placed Saints.
A week later, Fremantle’s rested stars returned to help propel the team to a shock qualifying final win over Geelong at Simonds Stadium.
Some fans have expressed outrage over Lyon’s bid to repeat the resting manoeuvre.
But Lyon believes the plan will boost his side’s flag hopes.
“There’s a lot of opinions,” Lyon said.
“But at the end of the day it’s all care and no responsibility, so ultimately the buck will stop with me. And I’m happy to wear any criticisms or bouquets that come.”
Nat Fyfe (leg), Hayden Ballantyne (pectoral), Cameron Sutcliffe (shoulder), and Michael Walters (calf) have already been ruled out through injury, meaning up to 14 of Fremantle’s best 22 could be missing.
Lyon admits there are pros and cons with bulk resting players.
On the one hand, it will give them a well-needed rest ahead of the finals.
But on the other hand, it could disrupt the team’s form.
“It’s not an exact science. There’s no guarantees,” Lyon told Perth radio station 6PR.
The one big loser over the whole affair will be Fremantle’s WAFL affiliate – Peel Thunder.
The Thunder will play a qualifying final against West Perth on Sunday.
It will be the Thunder’s first finals appearance since their inception in 1997, but most of their best players will be called up to fill the gaps for Fremantle’s match with Port.
Lyon said it was a situation where the greater good outweighed Peel’s needs.
Ballantyne, who hasn’t played since tearing his pectoral muscle in round 16, is pushing hard to play in week one of the finals.
Fyfe is also on track to play despite being seen wearing a protective cast over his left shin.
“It’s just a little bit to control the mobility,” Lyon said of Fyfe, who is battling inflammation in his fibula.