THE AFL is awaiting a formal request from Fremantle to rest players against Port Adelaide on Saturday, with the League's decision to be withheld until the Dockers' intentions are made clear.
After his side secured the minor premiership with a 54-point win over Melbourne on Sunday, coach Ross Lyon indicated the Dockers wanted to hold an unspecified number of players back from the Power clash to freshen them up for their home qualifying final.
The bid to rest players against Port Adelaide next week hinges on the AFL's interpretation of a rule introduced in 2013 after the Dockers fielded a virtual B-team against St Kilda.
After the Melbourne match, Lyon confirmed the club's desire to rest an unspecified number of players against the Power, but the Dockers will await the League's ruling.
In October 2013, the AFL Commission tightened the League's integrity rules to avoid the prospect of clubs resting players en masse late in the season to improve their finals draw.
The change came six weeks after Lyon's third-placed Dockers made 11 changes for their clash with 16th-ranked St Kilda and lost by 71 points.
The freshened-up Dockers recalled 10 players the following week for a qualifying final against Geelong at Simonds Stadium and won by 15 points, sparking a charge to the Grand Final.
The amended rule, No. 29, 'To Perform on One's Merits', reads: "(It) means at all times to perform honestly and to the best of one's ability in the pursuit only of legitimate competitive objectives.
"For the avoidance of doubt "legitimate competitive objective" includes the development of the team or players or management of player fatigue or injuries but does not include improving a club’s draft position, improving a club's position with respect to a potential player exchange or manipulating a club's position on the ladder for the purpose of improving its draw within the finals series."
Given the Dockers cannot be budged from top spot regardless of next week's results, and the Power cannot make the top eight even if they beat Fremantle, there is no obvious impact on the integrity of the finals.
However, the types of mass changes made by the Dockers ahead of their clash with the Saints in 2013 – when the make-up of the top four was still to be finalised – might now be seen as a breach of the rules.
Fremantle also has history of resting players prior to the Lyon era.
Under former coach Mark Harvey, the Dockers withdrew seven of their more experienced players from a late-season clash against Hawthorn in 2010.
Needing one win from their last two home and away matches to ensure a finals berth and with the top-four out of reach, the Dockers entered the round 22 fixture against the Hawks in Launceston fielding several youngsters, and were defeated by 116 points.
They bounced back with a six-point win at home over fellow finalist Carlton in round 23 to book their place in September.