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Swans, Hawks and Power have reserves advantage over Dockers and Cats

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Footy tips: Freo or Port? Swans or Tigers?

Rohan Connolly tips a gripping final round of the AFL home-and-away season, including Port Adelaide's 'knockout' clash with Fremantle.

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Sydney, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and North Melbourne will have pre-cooked meals sitting in the fridge come finals time, but fellow premiership aspirants Fremantle, Geelong and Essendon will need first to defrost any inclusions they will have.

The reason is that the various state league competitions all ended their home-and-away seasons on the weekend, meaning that a bunch of top-eight teams will no longer have their reserves playing games at the weekend, a potential obstacle if recent history is a guide.

Of the past 10 AFL premiers to have fielded stand-alone reserves sides, eight have had their second-stringers playing in the state league finals.

Geelong completed the VFL/AFL double in 2007.

Geelong completed the VFL/AFL double in 2007. Photo: John Donegan

The case of Hawthorn last year is a prime example. The Hawks' VFL afilliate Box Hill continued to play deep into September, eventually upsetting Geelong's VFL team two days after the AFL side had escaped against the Cats in the preliminary final.

Brendan Whitecross' knee injury in that game opened the door for Jonathan Simpkin - warmed up from playing in the VFL decider - to fill Whitecross' breach, and replicate Steven King's 2007 feat of playing in two premierships just six days apart.

King's inclusion for Geelong's ultimately fruitful tilt at a drought-breaking premiership highlights another perk of having a reserves side shadow the seniors through the finals. Mark Blake had become a concern, and King's recent form made the decision to axe Blake easier.

Geelong would have defeated Port Adelaide with Susan Boyle in the ruck that day, but King more than justified his selection, complementing Brad Ottens in the ruck.

The Cats will not be able to enjoy the same luxury next month, with their VFL side's season ending after Werribee defeated Frankston on Sunday. Responding to the news, backman Tom Lonergan conceded the absence of active depth could be detrimental to the club's chances of silverware.

"Disappointed to see them go, because we do need those guys playing some footy for us in September for us to do well," Lonergan told radio K-Rock.

Box Hill has had another strong season, earning the double chance. It means the likes of Ben McEvoy, Ryan Schoenmakers and Angus Litherland will have the chance to continue staking a claim.

The first year of a revamped SANFL competition has given Port Adelaide's remarkably healthy list the guarantee of further hitouts. With Port Adelaide Magpies claiming the minor premiership in its maiden campaign as the Power's reserves team, there will be no shortage of cover available should Port require. Adelaide's SANFL team did not, however, make the finals.

The WAFL also went down the track of stand-alone sides in 2014, and while West Coast's affiliate East Perth has qualified for the finals, Fremantle's back-ups won't get the chance to keep playing at Peel Thunder.

It is not a new challenge for Fremantle coach Ross Lyon, whose grand final teams at St Kilda in 2009 and 2010 did not have alignment partner Sandringham competing in the VFL finals during either campaign.

The Swans' NEAFL side has progressed to the finals, as have both of North Melbourne's semi-aligned clubs Werribee and North Ballarat, although the pair face off this weekend in an elimination final. But in the highly unlikely event Gold Coast Suns make the finals, they won't have the reserves team to accompany them after they went 0-18 with a percentage of 42 in the NEAFL.

Of the premiers over the past decade, only Hawthorn (2008) and Geelong (2011) did not have reserves sides competing in the finals. The Hawks' plight in 2009 - when they missed the eight -  was perhaps reflective of this, with Alastair Clarkson's list unable to cope when injuries mounted. Clarkson had showed he was a master chef in 2008, but as 2009 showed, even great chefs need fresh ingredients.

AFL premiers since 2002: How their reserves teams fared:

2013: Hawthorn  (Box Hill , VFL premier)

2012: Sydney (Sydney, NEAFL conference final)

2011: Geelong (Geelong, VFL missed finals)

2010: Collingwood (Collingwood, VFL elimination final)

2009: Geelong (Geelong, VFL elimination final)

2008: Hawthorn (Box Hill, VFL missed finals)

2007: Geelong (Geelong, VFL premier)

2006: West Coast (reserves spread across WAFL)

2005: Sydney (Sydney, AFL Canberra premier)

2004: Port Adelaide (reserves spread across SANFL)

2003: Brisbane Lions (Suncoast Lions, QAFL preliminary final)

2002: Brisbane Lions (Suncoast Lions, QAFL preliminary final)

2014 potential AFL finalists: did their reserves make the finals?

Sydney (Sydney, NEAFL) Yes

Hawthorn (Box Hill, VFL) Yes

Geelong (Geelong, VFL) No

Fremantle (Peel Thunder, WAFL) No

Port Adelaide (Port Magpies, SANFL) Yes

North Melbourne (Werribee, VFL) Yes and (North Ballarat, VFL) Yes

Essendon (Essendon, VFL) No

Richmond (Richmond, VFL) No

Collingwood (Collingwood, VFL) Yes

West Coast (East Perth, WAFL) Yes

Adelaide (Adelaide, SANFL) No

Gold Coast (Gold Coast, NEAFL) No

6 comments so far

  • This subject is a very small matter. That is the luck of the draw & it is no excuse if failure arrives at finals time. That is drawing a long bow.

    Wont bother Freo - we will win it this year with one eye closed and a hand tied behind our backs. Even if we finish 5th (which we wont) come September we will smash the suitcases out of the rest of them. No problem this is our year. Yee harrrrr!!!

    Commenter
    Clive
    Location
    Freo
    Date and time
    August 27, 2014, 4:24PM
    • Sydney just have to turn up and the flag is theirs. The AFL is determined that no other club is to stand a chance of ruining their business plan. Freo may battle hard but you can't win without the AFL's blessing.

      Commenter
      Brendan
      Location
      Forest Hill
      Date and time
      August 27, 2014, 4:58PM
  • Isn't Ross Lyon famous for saying "anyone, anywhere, anytime" ? I don't recall any caveat about Peel playing at the same time of year.

    BTW @Clive...good luck with that lolololol

    Commenter
    The Doktor
    Location
    Perth
    Date and time
    August 27, 2014, 5:59PM
    • Errrr, Freo has more important things to worry about like sudden change of finals venues, scheduling the team to play in Brisbane at 11am on a Sunday morning and then again against Port 6 days later, playing two of last year's top 4 in the final 4 rounds compared to Sydney's 0. One thing they have is plenty of depth and if they are all training hard then they are all match ready.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Date and time
      August 27, 2014, 6:08PM
      • You are right @Peter. Freo does have more important things to worry about...like more capable opposition.

        You mean a change of finals venue to the opponents home ground ? lol.

        Sydney play last year's equal 4th team (5th on %) in the last round.

        Freo will no doubt have a home final in week 1 anyway.....when they lose to Port this week. :P

        Commenter
        The Doktor
        Location
        Perth
        Date and time
        August 27, 2014, 6:58PM
    • @ The Doktor....I think you will find that Freo will be playing Sydney in week 1 of the finals :p

      Freo will demolish Port.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      August 27, 2014, 9:27PM

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