Rest is best for AFL finals: Roos coach
North Melbourne coach Brad Scott made no apologies for putting his team’s finals campaign first before resting nine players from Friday night’s AFL meeting with Richmond in their last regular-season game.
The contentious move has drawn ire from AFL greats, including Kevin Bartlett, and could kill off Adelaide’s hopes of a home final, with the dismayed Crows seeking clarification from the AFL over the issue.
A defiant Scott dropped key contributors Nick Dal Santo, Jarrad Waite, Michael Firrito, Andrew Swallow, Shaun Higgins, Todd Goldstein, Sam Wright, Ben Cunnington and Scott Thompson.
But Scott said after locking in a finals berth, the club deserved the right to prepare for it the way they wanted.
“We’ve earnt the right to play in the finals and that’s been a really hard-fought battle,” he said.
“We’ve had to win seven of our past eight to get ourselves into this position.
“We’ve had some players who have been battling to get to the line each week so we’ve got the opportunity to rest them and let them freshen up and get over their niggles in preparation for our finals assault next week.”
In essence, Scott is saying you don’t win a premiership in round 23.
This is a tactical ploy to win a long game, and one not without history.
Last season, Scott rested five players – including key men Goldstein, Firrito and Levi Greenwood – for their last match of the home-and-away season.
The 2012 season was most instructive for Scott, who chose not to rest players and suffered a 96-point elimination final belting by West Coast.
He vowed not to make the same mistake again.
“It was a massive blue in hindsight,” Scott said.
“I played players who had niggles, played players who were fatigued … I swore to myself then if we were in the same position again, I wouldn’t make the same mistake.”
The controversial move has the AFL’s blessing, despite the flow-on effects for the finals series beginning next week.
In considering the move, the AFL considers the motivations and ramifications on the team resting players and not third parties.
Two clubs are the big losers from the Kangaroo cull – Adelaide and North’s VFL affiliate Werribee.
The Crows need North Melbourne to beat Richmond or the Western Bulldogs to lose to Brisbane to have any chance of a home final.
According to bookmakers, the chances of that have become exceptionally low; the Tigers tumbled to be a $1.07 shot after the Kangaroos’ announcement and the Bulldogs should have no trouble dispatching the last-placed Lions.
The Crows felt compelled to speak with the AFL on the matter on Thursday and were left questioning whether the rules needed to be changed after being informed the league had signed off on the move.
And pity poor Werribee, who play an elimination final on Saturday against Collingwood but face the loss of most of their best players.
But Scott said he wasn’t giving away the game despite being prepared to field an inexperienced side.
“It’s insulting to think we’re trying to lose,” he said.
“We’ll go out with a team without a single debutant and two-thirds of our team will have played over 50 games so I don’t think anyone should be under any illusions as to our intentions tomorrow night.
“We’re going out to win the game.”