Adelaide’s chances of snaring a home final have been dealt a severe blow, with North Melbourne gaining AFL approval to rest up to ten players for tomorrow night’s finals-shaping showdown with Richmond.
Adelaide needs the Kangaroos to beat the Tigers – or, less likely, the Western Bulldogs to fall to the bottom-placed Lions – in order to secure a home-ground advantage at Adelaide Oval in an elimination final.
But North Melbourne has today revealed in a statement it will “consider resting up to 8-10 players” for the match, “following thorough assessment of its playing list”.
North CEO Carl Dilena said all players have been closely monitored by the club’s medical and conditioning staff and “the fatigue and injury status of our players will be the main consideration for team selection this week”.
“At this stage, our initial assessment indicates that we may look to rest up to 8-10 players that played in Round 22 against the Bulldogs,” said Dilena.
“We have been in contact with the AFL regarding this process and have been given approval to go down this path should we need.”
Dilena said in a statement that securing a finals berth allowed the club to prepare and plan for the finals.
“Player management is critical all season, but more so now on the eve of another finals campaign,” he said.
“We will stay in contact with the AFL ahead of the team announcement tonight.”
The decision will also decimate VFL affiliate Werribee ahead of a state-league elimination final, but Dilena said: “This is an unprecedented situation and we have to do what’s best for our players in the circumstances.”
The move is certain to open up heated debate about the integrity of the competition, with the move likely to affect ladder positions ahead of the finals and arguably designed to eliminate the prospect of a trip to Adelaide to play the in-form Crows. Adelaide still needs to beat Geelong at Kardinia Park to have any hope of finishing fifth or sixth and qualifying for a home final, with Richmond their more likely opponent if they were to lose to the Kangaroos.
But if North loses, they would instead likely face off against the Tigers again the following week, albeit with a very different squad, leaving Adelaide to play the Bulldogs in Melbourne.
Kangaroos coach Brad Scott said his side was “going out to win the game”, but that he had learned from an early finals exit in 2012 after he didn’t rest any players for a last round clash with the Giants.
“It was a massive blue in hindsight,” he said.
“I played players who had niggles, played players who were fatigued and then we travelled to West Coast the next week and got absolutely obliterated.
“I swore to myself then if we were in the same position again I wouldn’t make the same mistake.”
Ladder leader Fremantle is also set to rest up to 11 players against Port Adelaide when team sheets are revealed tonight, although that will not affect the final eight, with the Power already out of finals contention.
Dockers coach Ross Lyon has already confirmed captain Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands, Luke McPharlin, David Mundy, Stephen Hill and Lee Spurr will miss Saturday’s match, while Lachie Neale, Danyle Pearce, Nick Suban, Michael Barlow, Michael Johnson, Chris Mayne, and Garrick Ibbotson headline other likely omissions.
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