Subs a penalty: Harvey
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey believes the AFL’s new interchange rules could hurt frequent-travelling teams that have become accustomed to rotating heavily on the road.
With the interchange bench reduced to three players and one substitute this season, clubs are readying for an inevitable drop in rotations by preparing fitter, more versatile players.
Harvey said the bench would be a key tactical ground in 2011 but he was wary of the impact it would have on clubs such as Fremantle, which travels at least 10 times in a season.
“The interesting thing about travelling on the road is the limit on the rotations and whether that adds to the difficulty of winning on the road,” Harvey said.
“That’s an important point, because we’re about to find out about that. I see it as another restriction of travel.”
Fremantle’s rotations on the road peaked at 143 in round 17 last year against the Western Bulldogs, but the club rotated slightly more at the expansive Patersons Stadium, averaging 130 rotations at home and 123 when travelling.
Harvey said after setting up its season with impressive road wins against Essendon, the Sydney Swans and the Brisbane Lions last year, winning away from Perth would remain a big challenge for his group in 2011.
“The next step is to be able to sustain that type of performance,” he said.
“We were underrated in many ways. I think to come through, to generate momentum, to start to win a bit more regularly on the road, to be at the forefront of exceeding what everyone perceives you doing, it was exciting.
“To be able to sustain it was harder. Being able to pit yourself against the competition in the second half of the year and trying to emulate what you did in the first half of the year is difficult.
“[But] we managed to get to a position where we haven’t been for many years.”
Harvey also emphasised the importance of his young players finding a travel routine as quickly as possible and said the AFL’s agreement with new carrier Virgin Blue was an unknown.
The coach was reluctant to place top-four expectations on Fremantle, based on the club’s heavy travel schedule.
“Under our regime it’s the hardest to predict what you should do … when you travel like we do it’s the hardest,” he said.
“To put expectation out there, you’re always putting yourself in a circumstance where only a couple of little things need to go wrong and you’re back to the field quite quickly.
“We don’t necessarily talk so much about that, and that’s been a good decision. But internally, we’re driven.”