AFL boss Gillon McLachlan insists it is too early for a bye brouhaha, saying no definitive call has been made about the divisive issue in the 2017 fixture.
The AFL Players’ Association (AFLPA) has been pushing for a return of two mid-season byes since 2015, when one was scrapped as part of a shortened season that followed the cricket World Cup.
The AFL on Tuesday released preliminary details about 2017, confirming the grand final will be on September 30.
The current framework suggests the AFLPA’s wishes will be ignored in favour of a week off between round 23 and the start of finals, as is being trialled this year.
“We haven’t made a definitive call on that,” McLachlan said.
“We know the players welcome the byes. We have two byes this year, they’re just in a slightly different configuration.
“We’ll see how we go this year.”
McLachlan added that access to venues would be a limitation, with the league currently aiming for the season to start on March 23.
“Clearly the players have a view. Broadcasters, clubs and others (have a view),” he said.
“We’ll sit down and weigh that up …then we’ll make a decision.”
The AFLPA released a statement on Tuesday, with manager of player relations Brett Murphy making the union’s thoughts clear.
“While we appreciate that the details are not yet finalised, we are concerned that the proposed scheduling framework does not at this point contemplate the return of a second in-season bye,” Murphy said.
“The players overwhelmingly support the return of a second in-season bye, and believe this is a critical player welfare issue.
“As the AFL has itself noted the importance of player welfare in devising the fixture, we remain hopeful that this important issue can be addressed for the 2017 season.”
Clubs and coaches are split on how to handle the timing and number of mid-season breaks.
A pre-finals bye was introduced after too many clubs rested players in round 23 of the 2015 season.
McLachlan was confident the week off, which will feature a standalone women’s match and the All-Australian awards night, would be embraced by fans and clubs.
“There is some risk in that, in terms of a week off and lack of momentum,” he said.
“But there’s also a huge opportunity.
“There will be a lot of different things going on … I’m very confident clubs in the final will be able to have open days.
“You’ve got to keep looking at stuff .. there’s risk in all change but we’re pretty bullish about what will happen.”