Lyon defends weakened team

Nick Rynne

Coach Ross Lyon has defended a decision to overhaul Fremantle's line-up for tomorrow's clash with St Kilda at Etihad Stadium, saying the experience of flying two weeks in a row during last year's finals helped shape his club's stance.

The Dockers yesterday made 10 changes to the side which flogged Port Adelaide last Saturday night, with Michael Johnson, Nat Fyfe, David Mundy, Hayden Ballantyne, Zac Clarke, Lee Spurr and Zac Dawson rested. They join injured trio Stephen Hill (hamstring), Michael Walters (knee) and Nick Suban (hamstring) on the sidelines.

Aaron Sandilands (cheekbone), Garrick Ibbotson (Achilles) and Clancee Pearce (calf) were named to return from injury tomorrow.

Peter Faulks, Alex Silvagni, Jesse Crichton, Josh Mellington, Matt Taberner, Hayden Crozier and debutant Alex Forster were the other inclusions. First-year midfielder Josh Simpson flew to Melbourne with the team yesterday as an emergency.

The Saints made three changes, with former Docker Dylan Roberton and Claremont pick-up Tom Lee joining forward Justin Koschitzke, who will play his 200th, and final, game on the list of inclusions.

Jack Newnes (shoulder), Brodie Murdoch and Cameron Shenton were axed.

Stephen Milne and Jason Blake will join Koschitzke in retirement after the match.

The Dockers are in third place and guaranteed a top-four finish regardless of this weekend's results.

With Brisbane needing to beat Geelong tomorrow for Fremantle to be any chance of a top-two spot, a qualifying final against the Cats or Hawthorn in Melbourne is most likely in the first week of September.

The Dockers played their final game of last year's regular season at home but were forced to fly in the first two weeks of the finals, fading badly after half-time in a 10-point semifinal loss to Adelaide at AAMI Stadium.

With another flight to Melbourne looming next week, Lyon said the chance to hold players back was one the Dockers couldn't resist.

"We've secured our spot, we can't really change too much, an opportunity has presented itself, one which we've, in consideration and consultation, taken to a large degree," Lyon said.

"We know the challenges of WA teams. We'll be flying and then we'll be flying the next week.

"Last year we flew two weeks in a row off two short six-day breaks that we think had a cumulative effect, so we're planning for a strong (finals) campaign."

Resting players has drawn criticism in recent years, but Lyon said the practice was simply about managing player workloads.

He said the Dockers expected to beat the Saints despite the relatively inexperienced team heading to Melbourne.

"I'm not sure what's sinister about it," Lyon said.

"If that's viewed as sinister, then we all look through the world with different eyes and different circumstances.

"It's a considered view and we'll be very, very competitive.

"We're going over to get the points."