HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson has launched an attack on the AFL’s pre-finals bye, arguing it threatens the integrity of the game.
While the Hawks won’t be a part of the finals action for the first time since 2009, Clarkson said the bye weekend at the end of the home-and-away season severely disadvantaged teams in the top four.
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“I think it’s unbelievably challenging for the top four teams given that they have deserved top-four status, I think it’s an enormous disadvantage finishing top four, winning your first final and then you’ve played one game in three weeks leading into a prelim,’’ Clarkson said.
“So that’s why anyone in the top eight can win it, just like we saw last year. The first time in 20 or 30 years that we changed our top-eight system and ironically it’s the first time that someone from outside the top four wins the (Grand) Final. I don’t think there’s a coincidence in that.
“That’s why any team from fifth to eighth gets a roll on, look out.
“I don’t think it’s good for the game … the integrity of the game is the most important part and there is not integrity in finishing top four if it’s a disadvantage for you.’’
The pre-finals bye was introduced for the first time last season to discourage finals-bound teams from the mass resting of players in the final round before the finals.
The Western Bulldogs won the flag from seventh position last year.
Clarkson said suggested teams will start to target a finish outside of the top four if the top four finishers are disadvantaged.
“Part of the game is survival of the fittest and if you’ve worked hard to deserve top-four status, you shouldn’t be disadvantaged come finals, you should be advantaged, otherwise what’s the point?’’ Clarkson said.
“It will certainly be the case this year, if a team wins from outside the top four this year, I’ll tell you where everyone will be targeting their finishing position next year, it will be fifth to eighth, they won’t worry about top four, you don’t want that.’’
Originally published as Bye hurts game’s integrity: Clarkson
Source: sports dailytelegraph