AFL says bye, bye to teams resting players in final round
That 'one day in September' has become 'one day in October' with the AFL extending the 2016 season by introducing a bye between the final round of home and away games, and the first week of the finals.
The week off means the grand final will be played on October 1, chief executive Gillon McLachlan saying the change would ensure the teams playing in the finals had "the best possible lead-in and preparation for the most important matches of our season".
McLachlan admitted there were "risks in disrupting the momentum of the season", but said there were also enormous opportunities, including waiting until the Monday night of the final round to play a match that might determine the make-up of the finals.
By giving clubs a week off before the finals, the AFL hopes it will avoid a repeat of this season's final-round drama when Fremantle and North Melbourne elected to rest up to a dozen players.
McLachlan also said it was possible the first week of the finals next year could be played over four days, starting on a Thursday night.
The season will also kick off on a Thursday with the traditional Richmond v Carlton clash at the MCG. But, the Blues have paid the price for a poor 2015 season, dropped entirely from the prime Friday night timeslot after six appearances last season.
Champions Hawthorn will feature in six Friday night games as it tries to become the first team since Collingwood in 1930 to win four consecutive premierships. The Hawks will also play in two of the four Thursday night games between rounds 14-17.