St Kilda coach Brett Ratten says he won’t hesitate resting any players who are showing “red flags” from the unparalleled 2020 workload as the season concludes despite pushing for the club’s first finals berth since 2011.
That includes star young forward Max King, who will play against Melbourne in Alice Springs on Saturday and has played every game of the season. But the 20-year-old could yet be managed to protect his and the club’s long-term interests.
The Saints could go a long way to securing a finals berth with a win over the Demons, which would be a 10th win for the season.
But Ratten said an upcoming four-day break between games against Hawthorn and West Coast could demand he sit some players out, and it’s a call he’s willing to make regardless of what’s on the line.
“With our wellbeing surveys, we monitor all the players with their sleep and recovery, and he (King) hasn’t red-flagged yet,” Ratten said on Friday.
“Then you have the flip side; he’s a first-year player and how far do we want to push him in one year? The players we have left out, they have all red-flagged, their markers have told us they are maybe on the verge of getting injured.
“If they hit the markers they will probably be out, unless we get through to the finals, or it might be the last home-and-away game. But in the build-up, we have to make sure we look after our players.
“Some of the decisions might be more about long-term view than short term. King is one of those for sure. He’s a young man, he’s had bad knees, syndesmosis and a few things in the last 12 months, so we have to look after him.
“If it comes up he has any signs, we will leave him out for sure.”
Hunter Clark is a certain inclusion for the clash with Melbourne, and Ratten knows the ruck battle between Demon skipper Max Gawn and his double-duo of Rowan Marshall and Paddy Ryder could be crucial.
“Maybe whoever gets the ruck dominance might win the clearance dominance and help win the territory battle. It’s a huge battle,” he said.
“They need to win to make finals, so do we. We’re not looking too far ahead. We know the fixture, but we know Melbourne are a big step to get over and we need to do that.”
The two teams will fly to Alice Springs on the same plane, and Ratten joked he might drape a shower curtain “right down the middle of the plane” to try to separate them from their opponents.
“It’s like footy this year, different challenges and different scenarios thrown at every club, every week,” Ratten said.
“I don’t know how they are going to seat the place. That could be interesting.”