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Why the AFL Pre-Finals Bye needs to stay

One of the most exciting and intriguing games of football was produced last Saturday night when West Coast snatched victory off Port Adelaide after Luke Shuey’s kick after the siren on extra time in the first final to be drawn after regular time since the 2010 Grand Final.

Drew Petrie was one of the standouts for the Eagles, with his strong contested marking playing a role in a tough Eagles victory, he has thanked his influential game on his recovery week during the pre finals bye.

To say that there has been some criticism with the addition of the pre finals bye at the start of the 2016 would be an understatement. Many football experts have branded the pre finals bye to be a disadvantage to the top 4 teams while two weeks ago, football great Mick Malthouse stated how he was “a bit confused as why we have the bye”.

But with Petrie’s recent admission, is the concept of a pre finals bye as disastrous as everyone is labeling it to be?

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Petrie had one of his best games in the blue and gold this season last Saturday night with 15 disposals, 6 tackles, 7 marks and two important goals to help his side over the line. Fellow retirees Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell were also outstanding at Adelaide, combining for 59 disposals, 10 marks and 10 tackles.

While there a couple of factors to these players’ impressive form, the week off for the aging Petrie, Priddis and Mitchell could only have done them good rather then harm in preparation for the last finals series. It is fair to say that their impact on such a tight and intense contest would not have been the same if they had not had the pre finals bye to recover and rest; we may never of had such an entertaining final at the Adeliade Oval on Saturday night.

The Pre Finals Bye is also a saviour for those sweating on injuries right before week one of the finals as Joel Selwood and Daniel Hannebery were able to have the week off to train and recover with no consequences allowing themselves the opportunity to be match fit for such important finals.

Even Rory Sloane, despite ultimately not playing, was able to heal from his appendix surgery without the severe stresses and worries of aiming to be fit within a week of the operation, therefore allowing the best players the best chances to be fully fit and ready by the start of the finals campaign.

The week off can also initiate the beginning of a memorable momentum run throughout the four weeks of the finals. Who can forget the Western Bulldogs’ unbelievable journey from 7th place playing and elimination final in Perth to winning their first premiership flag in 62 years.

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The Bulldogs’ last game of the season that year was a disappointing loss to Fremantle but with the week off to re-group, re-charge and prepare for the battle of a finals series and after an inspiring win against the Eagles, were able to gather some dangerous and serious intensity to defeat Hawthorn, GWS and ultimately Sydney in the Grand Final.

Who is to say the Eagles can not achieve the same thing, especially after their motivational victory in the final round of the home and away season to sneak themselves into 8th position. With the inspiring leaders of Mitchell, Priddis and Petrie along with the hopeful excitement of a possible Nic Naitnui return, the possibilities are endless and the way this season has gone, anything can happen.

It doesn’t work for every team with Essendon, this season being the most comparable to the Bulldogs last season, unable to get their injured players back to the performances that have marveled crowds over the last few months.

But it can’t help be thought that a team like West Coast can only be praising the pre finals bye at this important stage of the competition. Momentum is everything in finals and every advantage that a team can get will be taken.

The pre finals bye is not everybody’s cup of tea but the thought of exciting and intense football finals with players from both sides, no matter their age or fitness levels, being as influential as ever before is music to the ears of every football fan; and that is what the pre finals bye has to offer.

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