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Axe finals bye or say goodbye to game's integrity: Clarkson

Football

Four-time AFL premiership coach Alastair Clarkson says the bye week before finals is challenging the integrity of the game as it removes any advantage for finishing in the top four.

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Missing the finals for the first time since 2009, Clarkson wants the AFL to dump the bye week, which means the top four teams play just once in three weeks if they win in week one of the finals.

Both SA-based teams are eyeing off top four finishes: the Crows have already sewn up a top-two berth, while a Power win against cellar-swelling Gold Coast could see it snare a double chance if other results go its way.

But after the bye was introduced last year, the Western Bulldogs came from seventh to win the flag. It was the first time a club reached the premiership decider from such a low position on the ladder.

“The integrity of the game is the most important part and there’s no integrity in finishing top four if it’s a disadvantage for you,” Clarkson said today, ahead of their final round clash with the Bulldogs.

“I think it’s an enormous disadvantage finishing top four, winning your first final and then you’ve played one game in three weeks leading into a prelim.

“Part of the game is survival of the fittest and if you’ve worked hard to deserve top four status you shouldn’t be disadvantaged come the finals, you should be advantaged.”

Clarkson said it was no coincidence a team from outside the top four won in the same year they introduced the bye and if it happened again this season, it could change the approach of clubs.

“If a team wins from outside the top four this year I tell you where everyone will be targeting their finishing position; it will be fifth to eighth.

“They won’t worry about top four and you don’t want that.”

-AAP

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