The AFL wants to make the risky pre-finals bye a permanent part of the fixture.
The league sprang a major surprise at Thursday’s 2016 fixture announcement, with a second bye introduced between round 23 and week one of finals.
This will push the grand final back until October 1 – the second-straight season it has not been the traditional last week in September.
The late-season bye is a direct result of North Melbourne and, to a lesser extent, Fremantle resting players en masse last month before the finals’ opening week.
It was met with mixed social media reaction, but AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said clubs had given strong support.
“It goes to ensuring the integrity of our home-and-away competition and the integrity of our game,” McLachlan said.
“What happened in round 23 this year was unsatisfactory and we committed to addressing that.
“This is obviously our preferred position going forward.
“You have to execute right and make it work.”
McLachlan said there were plenty of ways the AFL could try to ensure the week off was not a momentum killer.
These include a Monday or Tuesday night game to end round 23 and potentially a Thursday night match game to start the finals.
As has become the norm, round 23 will be a floating draw until it becomes clearer which teams will make the finals.
The AFL also might move the Rising Star and All Australian functions into the bye weekend.
But McLachlan is not keen to move the Brownlow Medal from grand final week.
“The risk is … that this is a momentum killer, but I think it is small and I am very confident this is the right way forward,” he said.
The AFL was negotiating with cricket until Wednesday night to ensure the MCG was available for the October 1 grand final.
McLachlan is hopeful a deal can be reached with cricket that would mean the MCG would be available for AFL games over last two weekends in March.
Next season will start with the Easter Thursday Richmond-Carlton blockbuster on March 24 at the MCG.
OTHER NOTABLE FEATURES INCLUDE:
* Still no Good Friday game, although this remains on the table
* Carlton have paid for poor form, with no Friday night games and their first trip to Launceston. They are among six teams – all non-finalists – without Friday night exposure
* Improving teams Richmond, North Melbourne and Western Bulldogs rewarded with Friday night matches.
* Essendon and Adelaide are outliers in the double match-ups, where the teams are split into three groups of six based on their 2015 ladder positions. The Bombers (15th) do not play anyone in the top six twice and the Crows (sixth) do not play anyone in the bottom six twice
* The round-11 North Melbourne-Richmond Hobart game will be the first Friday night match in Tasmania
* The only Sunday night match will be the MCG Melbourne-Richmond Anzac eve game.
* Anzac Day falls on a Monday and the MCG Essendon-Collingwood blockbuster will be the only match on April 25
* Hawthorn will unfurl the premiership flag in round two against losing grand finalists West Coast
* After three years, there are no St Kilda games in New Zealand over the Anzac Day round. The AFL hopes this will resume from 2018 in Auckland
* Reflecting Essendon’s fall, they play Collingwood only once for the first time since 1991
* Boom Geelong recruit Patrick Dangerfield will play against old team Adelaide for the first time in round eight at Adelaide Oval
* St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt is set to play his 300th game in round two. North Melbourne’s Brent Harvey could break the AFL games record with his 427th match in round 19 against the Saints