Fremantle’s refusal to take a full-strength side to Launceston this week is a blight on the competition and an indictment of a club which wouldn’t know what success was if it slapped it in the face.

No less than seven Dockers players have been left out of the match against Hawthorn, with coach Mark Harvey basically conceding a match which the Dockers needed to win to get some momentum back into a faltering season.

While resting one or two players a fortnight out from the finals is seen as good player management, resting seven is cutting off your nose to spite your face. It put all the pressure on the Dockers to beat Carlton next week or risk missing a home final.

Some Dockers fans will tell you that it’s the best way to ensure their team is ready to tackle the Blues in a crucial match off a six-day break. That’s loser talk. Win this week and then worry about next week, that’s what the best clubs do.

It’s not as if Fremantle are playing Collingwood or Geelong this week, they are playing a Hawthorn side which has won just one game in the past month and is currently six points behind them on the ladder. They are also a side which Fremantle could be very likely to play in the finals depending on what happens over the final few weeks.

So if a young Dockers side get hammered in Tassie on Saturday, what does that do to their confidence if they have to front up against the Hawks in a fortnight? More importantly, what considerable boost does it give to Hawthorn on the cusp of the finals?

With just two wins in their past six matches, Fremantle’s confidence is shot at the moment and a trip to Launceston is hardly what they would have wanted two weeks out from a first finals appearance in four years.

Whatever happened for all for one and one for all? When the Dockers younger brigade is cold, wet and getting flogged in what will be for many of them their first trip to York Park and they look around for guidance, there will be no Matthew Pavlich, David Mundy, Adam McPhee, Anthony Morabito, Roger Hayden, Stephen Hill, Nathan Fyfe or Aaron Sandilands.

Interestingly, this is the first time Fremantle have played at York Park since the infamous sirengate match against St Kilda in 2006. A match they won (eventually).

The betting markets for this match have changed wildly since it became apparent that Fremantle were failing to put their best team on the park for this match. There can be no sympathy afforded to bookmakers, who take these risks when they decide to field on these sports, but what about those who backed Fremantle before that feared military man General Soreness cut a swathe through the Dockers.

Given the massive change in personnel, the onus is on the AFL’s integrity department to at least investigate the circumstances of Fremantle’s selection. While there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing here, the AFL must act to ensure there is not even an appearance of any wrongdoing if the image of the game is to be preserved.

Time will tell if Harvey has shot himself in the foot here, but you can bet a team with a winning culture wouldn’t have taken such a risk so close to the finals.

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