Fremantle AFL coach Ross Lyon knew he was taking a risk by resting a third of his side for Saturday’s dead-rubber clash with St Kilda but he’s confident the ploy will pay dividends.
Lyon’s men have qualified in third spot for the finals series despite suffering their fifth loss of the season as third-bottom side St Kilda recorded an emotion-charged victory 16.16 (112) to 6.5 (41) at Etihad Stadium.
Nick Dal Santo (34 disposals), Jack Steven and Leigh Montagna (47 each) led St Kilda’s dominance against Fremantle’s under-strength midfield as the Saints staged a fine farewell for retiring trio Stephen Milne, Justin Koschitzke and Jason Blake.
Milne kicked two goals and regular defender Blake scored one. Koschitzke in his 200th game booted four behinds, much to the disappointment of the crowd of 22,476.
Fremantle made 10 changes on Thursday and also pulled out Garrick Ibbotson and Chris Mayne before the game on Saturday in a bid to keep star players fresh for next week’s return trip to Victoria to play second-placed Geelong in a qualifying final.
Geelong were one-point winners over Brisbane at Simonds Stadium on Saturday. A loss for the Cats would have left Lyon to face questions over why he rested so many players when a full-strength Dockers’ lineup would have been likely to beat the Saints and claim second spot and a home final next week.
Lyon was quizzed on the topic during his post-match media conference on Saturday and news came through that the match in Geelong had ended and the Cats had won.
“That’s nice, see? Good judgement,” Lyon said.
“I understand everyone’s interest.
“We leave ourselves open to criticism. That’s okay.”
Lyon said beating the Cats in Victoria was difficult but not impossible.
“I like the Leigh Matthews (line). If it bleeds, you can kill it,” he said.
He said resting players was risky, but that’s life.
“It is significant to do it (Perth to Melbourne and return) back to back,” Lyon said.
“When you’re on alternate weeks the whole year, it doesn’t really stack up that in your first final you would like to go back to back. Hence the management.”
The Dockers were forced to substitute Clancee Pearce off early in the first term because of a calf injury.
Scoreless in the first term, Fremantle kicked four goals in the second quarter and trailed by 33 points at halftime and 46 at the last change.
“We had a priority to rotate our guys who are regulars and it put some pressure on the younger ones and some other guys,” Lyon said.
“Overall, Leigh Montagna and Nick Dal Santo, their class just shone.”
Lyon says the next week is an exciting time for the Dockers with the double chance in their pocket.
“The pretend season’s over and the real one starts,” Lyon said.
St Kilda coach Scott Watters was thrilled his retiring trio were sent off in the right manner.
“Our side was very good today, under the burden of a fair bit of emotion,” he said.