Purple army hopeful of home final
“We put ourselves in a position where we can control our destiny, a lot of clubs can’t do that.”
So said Dockers coach Mark Harvey.
Is he a genius or could he have made the biggest mistake of his coaching career by resting up to eight key players for what turned out to be a hiding of biblical proportions at the hands of the Hawks in Launceston last week?
Harvey’s tactic was an attempt to freshen up the players ahead of this week’s game against Carlton.
If it wins against the Blues, the Dockers will secure a home final.
It’s been a few years since any West Australian club has featured in the AFL finals, and with the purple army gearing up for what Harvey described as a final before the finals against Carlton on Friday night, Subiaco Oval is set to burst with the expectation of thousands of Fremantle fans who have stuck by the club in its darkest days.
Fremantle finished the 2009 season 14th on the AFL ladder after winning just six matches.
2010 loomed as mission impossible with the Dockers facing one of the toughest draws including matches against the reigning premiers Geelong and runners-up Saint Kilda in the space of a fortnight.
Harvey’s side managed to surprise fans and media commentators by winning eight out of their first 10 matches this season but a so-so second half of the year and a grocery list of injured players sees the club fighting to secure a home final.
Last week’s match against Hawthorn saw Fremantle rest a host of stars, all but conceding the loss in one of the longest road-trips in AFL football.
Seven players. including Captain Matthew Pavlich and David Mundy, were sidelined plus the retiring Paul Haselby was a late withdrawal.
A second-rate Dockers side went down by 116 points to the Hawks, amid widespread criticism Harvey had got it wrong by resting so many key players.
Carlton coach Brett Ratten started a war of words with the Fremantle coach this week, saying the move was either a clever tactic or simply wouldn’t work for their round 22 clash.
“Form is something you just can’t turn on. You just can’t flick that switch and say, here we go, big game, big moment, I’m going to deliver and play a great game.
“So that will be interesting, to see how many of those players they bring back in and can they flick the switch to find form straight away.”
Fremantle will make a host of changes to the side for the clash with the Blues with giant ruckman Aaron Sandilands to return from injury.
A prickly Harvey defended his tactic, saying Carlton underestimated the Dockers last time they played and it looks like they’re doing that again.
He cited a recent example of how resting key players can freshen them up for the finals.
“All I know is I saw Luke Hodge get up and speak on Monday night. He said they rested me in round 21 before the 2008 finals series and it was the best thing they could have done for him, I thought it was a really good comment.”
There’s no doubt the purple army will turn out in droves to the match against Carlton, hoping Mark Harvey is proven to be a coaching mastermind by securing the club’s first home final since 2006.
If not, at least Dockers fans can take heart in the demise of their cross-town rivals in West Coast securing the wooden spoon for the first time in the club’s 23-year-history.