AFL chief executive Gill McLachlan at a press conference at AFL headquarters in Melbourne.
AFL chief executive Gill McLachlan at a press conference at AFL headquarters in Melbourne. JOE CASTRO

'There's been a lot of upside': AFL boss defends bye

AFL chief executive Gill McLachlan has defended the pre-finals bye weekend, saying he won't guarantee its future forever but would need a compelling reason to shelve it.

McLachlan said no decision would be made on next year's arrangements until a full assessment of this year's finals, but he was buoyed by last year's record-breaking series and forecast another big September.

"We made a change for known reasons," McLachlan said. "We think there's actually been a lot of upside because of it.

"We dealt with an integrity issue and then last year's finals series was remarkable. I'm not sure why (there is) continued speculation, because the build-up's going to be fabulous again.

"The ticket sales are strong and we've had a great year. I'm not sure why we're talking about it."

McLachlan said the worth of the pre-finals bye would continued to be assessed.

"You can't guarantee that it will be here forever," he said.

Last week Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson was the latest to take a swipe at the bye, saying it compromised the top-four clubs and gave too much of an advantage to the teams finishing fifth to eighth.

McLachlan said the Western Bulldogs' premiership triumph last year, after they finished seventh, showed the bye gave clubs the best possible chance to have their best players available.

He said the break enabled the AFL to better showcase other events such as the All-Australian team announcement, the Rising Star Award, the AFLW State of Origin clash and the E.J. Whitten Legends match.

"If last year is anything to go by, where we had the highest-rating finals series, the third-highest attended, the quality of the football and contest was unbelievable," McLachlan said.

"I am not sure what the downside is."

News Corp Australia

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