The 2017 AFL finals series will show us if the pre-finals bye is an unfair advantage to teams outside the top four

CONTROVERSY continues to surround the AFL’s decision to schedule a pre-finals bye and, to be frank, I don’t agree with the decision at all – both from a player’s and a spectator’s perspective.

The outcome of the 2017 finals series will be telling and will also start to answer some questions on whether the bye is an advantage or disadvantage to the top four sides who have fought all season to gain an advantage in September.

The Western Bulldogs last year became the first team in history to win the flag from below sixth place at the end of the season regular. A coincidence? Unlikely!

It was way back in mid-February that AFL’s re-entered our homes, the preseason competition had begun and football chat started taking over once again.

The season has been long and, since that first game way back then, players and fans alike have been eagerly waiting to see what September holds for their team. Excitement and anticipation has been building for months and now … nothing! A bye. Why?

To stop teams resting players prior to finals? Rubbish. If teams have been able to get themselves in the position to be able to do that, and want to rest players, good on them.

It is their finals race and they can do what they want and need to do to put their best foot forward towards winning the flag.

The AFL shouldn’t try and play “god” and force teams’ hands. This leaves a little bitter taste in my mouth and in all honesty clubs will still do what they want to do no matter what the schedule. Many players and coaches see a week off as a negative so I think the AFL is making something out of nothing much.

I believe the only time a bye like this would be of benefit to a player is if you are injured and fighting a race against time to get back.

The Bulldogs in 2016 were a prime example of this, with six players returning for the elimination final due to the extra week’s rest.

And with news of Rory Slone’s appendix operation this week, here is another example of someone who would have certainly missed the game this week, but will likely be back next week.

Don on Rory, Mitch and Tex

The Crows and Sloane hit the jackpot with the timing of this, not always the case though.

For non-injured players the bye is a negative for a couple of reasons.

Momentum and confidence is a wonderful thing in sport and a bye can strip you of this in an instant.

For a player (and team), when you have it, it is like having an extra player on the team. Fitness and “touch” is also very important, and you need to be playing regularly to make sure that both are up to scratch.

It always takes players time to get into the game and hit their peak after having a week off and the effect of this on a top four side that may only play once in three weeks can’t be underestimated.

This is a very real reason the bye should be scrapped so that the top four teams are not disadvantaged.

The bye will also give players – and coaches for that matter – far too much time to think.

Two weeks between games is a long time in sport. It give players 14 days get caught up in their “own head” leading to worsening nerves and self doubt, thus introducing a different mental aspect into the equation – one that may have been able to be kept at bay with just a week’s break.

For now, the outcome of 2017 final series will be very interesting to watch. I think the bye should be scrapped, but we will all look on with interest to see if, who and how the system benefits. Crows fans will certainly be hoping that the top-four sides are not disadvantaged like it seemed they were last year.