Fremantle coach Mark Harvey last night strongly defended his right to field a deliberately depleted side against Hawthorn after the Dockers were thrashed by the second-biggest margin in club history.

Hawthorn’s 116-point win at Aurora Stadium confirmed the club’s return to the finals after missing last year’s top eight but came at a cost, with defender Grant Birchall injuring a hamstring and Luke Hodge finishing the match on the bench with a wrenched knee.

At the end of a long season of travel, with just six days’ break before facing Carlton in a final-round clash, with a home final resting on that match and having endured a significant string of recent injuries, Harvey said his club had been entitled to leave out seven key players.

Captain Matthew Pavlich, Adam McPhee, David Mundy, Roger Hayden, Stephen Hill, Anthony Morabito and Nathan Fyfe were all rested, while Paul Hasleby was replaced by Tim Ruffles after developing fluid on a knee on Friday.

Ruffles, playing just his second match after undergoing a left-knee reconstruction last year, suffered another potentially serious injury to his right knee during the first quarter.

With Aaron Sandilands, Chris Tarrant, Hayden Ballantyne, Ryan Crowley, Alex Silvagni, Chris Mayne, Des Headland and Michael Barlow already missing through injury, the fifth-placed Dockers endured their third biggest loss ever, after 117-point defeats by Adelaide and West Coast in 2009 and 2000. The margin had blown out to 130 points during the last quarter.

”It’s the latter part of the year and most of the guys … nearly all the guys we left out today, have played nearly every game, some of our younger players particularly,” Harvey said.

”Unfortunately, because we had substantial injury in the last six-to-seven weeks, we haven’t been able to rest those guys at any stage. So it all came to a head quite quickly.

”We’ve made a decision as a club on what to do today and we think it’s the right thing going forward. Maybe in the short term it doesn’t look that way, but we think in the next week or two that we needed to do that.

”We’ll do what we think is right from the club and team point of view. We won’t be getting distracted by ex-players who want to comment on something they probably don’t know too much about if you’re not involved internally in the football club.”

Harvey said the Dockers – who dropped from 110.35 per cent to 103.75 per cent after the match – were ”not in it to please other clubs” or the AFL.

Harvey said the selection decisions were ”the best thing for the club in the next two weeks” and noted that every player yesterday had AFL experience, a result of the club’s decision to blood as many youngsters as possible in the past three seasons.

He also suggested Fremantle needed to be granted some ”exemptions” from its heavy travel schedule and indicated some disappointment that the Dockers had been scheduled to play a Friday night round-22 match after such a long road trip.

The Dockers expect at least 10 players to return for the Carlton clash – the seven rested players yesterday along with Sandilands and possibly Mayne, who played a WAFL game yesterday, and Ballantyne, who has missed three matches with a foot problem.

”I would love for you guys to experience being on the road for 12 to 14 times prior to today. This is not an hour flight; it’s not a two-hour flight,” Harvey said.

”If we’ve had 14 trips like this, yeah … I think we should be looking at exemptions. That’s my whole issue here and I’m waiting to hear answers.

”But … we’ll talk about that at the end of the year. But what we did today was right for our team in the next two weeks.”

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