Thanks for the replies everyone.
It seems there’s some indication that doing things to not win the immediately upcoming\current match is bad. That makes sense. Yet it seems common, and widely accepted practice for clubs to do things like:
Manage players’ training loads and not rushing players back from injury, (even if there would be a short-term benefit to the team.)
Players often come back from injury via the state leagues rather than straight back into the AFL team.
Resting certain (fit) best22 players when there are 5-day breaks between matches and travel to Perth is involved.
Benching star players for the last 5 minutes of the 4th quarter when they’re 6 goals up to avoid injury.
When it becomes unlikely\mathematically impossible half way through the season for a club to make the 8, the club benches best22 veterans and plays the kids, experiments with position swaps and new game plans etc.
To me, these things seem sensible if a club’s aim is to ultimately win premierships. However I can also see that a club taking this approach could mean they go into regular season games at less than full strength, so they’re more likely to lose games along the way, or at the very least affect margins (particularly with resting star players before the end of the 4th quarter.)
In some ways I suppose it depends on the result of the matches (which is annoying.) If clubs do these things but comfortably win matches anyway, then they’re geniuses, and no one asks questions. However if clubs lose matches, (or only win by narrow margins,) then questions get asked.
It happened in esports recently. A dominant team with a secure spot on the ladder (similar to Ess 2000,) was expected to thrash their opponents, but they lost. It later came out that this dominant team didn’t put in 100% into their preparation for this particular match, and didn’t take the game too seriously. They apparently said that they were secure in their position on the ladder regardless of the result, didn’t want to give away too much of their strategy to opposition teams too early in the piece, and that they were pacing themselves so they could be cherry-ripe for the grand final (in which they later smashed their opponents and won, so their approach seemed to work long term.)
Some people were of the opinion that a team choosing to not put 100% into their preparation and not taking the individual match too seriously qualified as “unintentional matchfixing.”
I wondered if given that AFL teams seem to train\play with a September focus, were a dominant team to train\play with a less-than-100% intensity and lose an inconsequential (for them) regular season game, would they face similar scrutiny.