AFL Players will have to wait another year to get two in-season byes, but wins could still be found when examining next season’s fixture.
As suspected, the AFL Players’ Association was denied its primary fixture request when the 2017 schedule was made public on Thursday morning.
AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh described this as an “unacceptable outcome” given how vigorously the players had fought for the return of two in-season byes for the 2017 season.
With the MCG available earlier next year, the AFLPA was adamant that two in-season byes was possible from a logistics and timing perspective, but the AFL chose to stick with a week off after Round 23.
“The AFL’s refusal to grant the players’ primary fixture request for next season is an extremely unsatisfactory outcome, especially considering two in-season byes was achievable,” Marsh told aflplayers.com.au.
“The week off after Round 23 does not benefit the majority of players and is not a genuine rest period for those about to embark on a finals campaign.”
A key principle of the AFLPA’s fixture submission was the protection of player wellbeing and Marsh suggested this wasn’t given the priority it deserved.
“We understand the complexities associated with building the fixture, but remain concerned that commercial goals have been favoured ahead of a genuine player welfare issue in this instance.”
Marsh stressed that the players remain committed to securing a second in-season bye and see it as a necessity if the league pursues an alternate structure in 2018.
The AFL again floated the possibility of a 17-5 conference-style competition at Thursday’s announcement and referenced it in relation to the future of two in-season byes.
“We would expect a bye at the mid-way point of the first 17 rounds and then another prior to the final five rounds providing players with two genuine rest periods,” Marsh said.
Marsh was pleased with some tweaks to the fixture, which were consistent with the AFLPA’s fixture submission.
In particular, there has been a reduction in the aggregate of six-day breaks between matches for clubs across the competition.
“We are also satisfied that the AFL has ensured that the clubs based in Western Australia and Queensland, that travel the furthest over the season, each have no more six-day breaks than the average number for clubs across the competition.”
Key features of the 2017 fixture:
– The AFL has reduced the aggregate number of six-day breaks across the competition
– Just three clubs face back-to-back six-day breaks more than once
– The number of night matches non-Victorian clubs (particularly those based in Perth and Queensland) are required to play interstate has been minimised to assist with travel
– The four clubs that travel the furthest on an annual basis (Fremantle, West Coast, Brisbane & Gold Coast) each have no more than the average number of six-day breaks
Areas of concern:
– There’s just one in-season bye
– Six teams have more than six six-day breaks
– West Coast has a six day-break after travel on five occasions, while GWS, Brisbane, Hawthorn, Adelaide and Sydney do this on three ocassions
– There’s an increase in the aggregate number of back-to-back 6-day breaks (11 up to 15)
– Gold Coast has to travel to Shanghai and Alice Springs within the space of 14 days