What to do about dead rubbers, and Round 23?
Fremantle Dockers' ruckman Zac Clarke tries to grab a one-hander against St Kilda Saints players. (Photo: Will Russell/AFL Media)
Something needs to be done about dead-rubber AFL games in the final round of the season.
I saw the most uncompetitive performance from a side in recent memory with Fremantle’s performance against St Kilda on Saturday.
With all due respect to the Saints, we were watching a game where only one team cared about winning and it certainly, and understandably, was not the men in purple. It is all about next week and beyond for Ross Lyon and his side.
Interestingly, if Ryan Lester converted the goal for Brisbane in the dying seconds against Geelong, the loss would have cost Fremantle a home final.
The Dockers made 10 changes at the selection table, with most of those players being listed as rested. Hayden Ballantyne, Nat Fyfe, Zac Clarke, Lee Spurr, Zac Dawson, David Mundy and Michael Johnson were confirmed outs on the Thursday, while Chris Mayne and Garrick Ibbotson were late withdrawals from the selected team on the day of the match.
You cannot blame Lyon’s strategy of resting tired players on the eve of the finals, especially as coach of an interstate side where travel is a major factor. Yet the game on the weekend made a mockery of the competition, even if it did give three St Kilda stalwarts the send-off they deserved.
The work rate and defensive structures of Fremantle was well below its usual standard as the Saints did as they pleased for four quarters. Ryan Crowley, probably the best tagger in the competition, did not tag a St Kilda player. This is despite Leigh Montagna and emerging superstar Jack Steven gathering 47 disposals each and absolutely dominating the match.
One possible solution to limit the amount of these types of matches could be to have Rivalry Round in the final round of the season.
This way clubs that are out of finals contention still participate in matches where there is a lot of pride on the line.
We could also have the Q-Clash, Showdown, Derby and the Battle of the Bridge on the same weekend so non-Victorian sides competing in the finals get a week’s rest from travel.