It's Round 23. The final week for teams to prepare themselves for the finals. For six months 18 AFL teams have jostled for position on the ladder, culminating in the top eight teams being decided a week early, in Round 22. Thanks to this outcome, at least two teams have set their sights on Week One of the finals and decided to rest up to 10 players from their best 22. The teams in question, Fremantle and North Melbourne, are coming from vastly different vantage points, though.
North Melbourne, on the other hand, have been inconsistent, to say the least. The Roos weren't even in the top eight until Round 17 and although their recent run of seven games in a row was the third longest of the year, five of those wins came against teams currently occupying places in the bottom six. There is such a thing as "flirting with form" but, unfortunately for North, they have no real form with which to flirt.
It is easy to see where the North hierarchy are coming from. Whether they beat Richmond this week or not, they will likely play an Elimination Final at the MCG next week. If they win, they'll most likely play Footscray, if they lose they'll play Richmond again. North have a very good recent record against both those teams (Round 22 aside), so it's six of one, half a dozen of the other.
The problem lies in the attitude of the powers that be at North Melbourne. For Brad Scott et al. to consider themselves being in a similar position to Fremantle is laughable. If the Roos think their players have done enough this season to have fatigued themselves to a point where they are desperate for a rest, their win/loss record certainly doesn't reflect it.
The coaching staff, by the same token, are kidding themselves if they think making changes to the team at this stage will help them in the finals. Even if they manage to avoid a trip to Adelaide in Week One, which is the ultimate goal, they will still need to travel to Perth at some stage if they want to progress any further than a Semi Final.
It is yet another example of the delusions of grandeur that have plagued this club for the last five years. This is a team that has finished no higher than sixth on the ladder since 2007, yet still talk about themselves as though they are a genuine threat for the Premiership. If they are a genuine threat, then there is something that insiders know to which we are not privy, because their performances on the field to not give that impression. Until they do start performing like a genuine finals team, they have no right to play games at the selection table.
For our sake and yours, North Melbourne, pick your best possible side this week, hit the finals running, and do some damage. Otherwise, to use the parlance of the social media community, GTFO.