AFL fixtures boss Travis Auld says the league is now targeting the weekend of October 17 as its preferred date for a grand final.
The move comes on the back of a plan to drastically compress the fixture to make the most of travelling Victorian clubs’ time based in interstate hubs.
Auld confirmed the AFL is set to schedule 19 consecutive days of football from late July, including some double-headers on weeknights.
He left the door open to four-day breaks between matches, but has had some push-back from the AFL Players Association on that matter.
“If we condense from round eight onwards, we might be able to condense for a six to eight-week period, as long as we can make it work with the players and the clubs,” Auld told SEN.
“That will probably save us a couple of weeks against a traditional round format.
“Then you might go back to a more traditional format for the last two rounds to prepare teams for finals and then into your finals series.
“That takes a couple of weeks off the season.”
The grand final date was previously targeted at October 24, which would have clashed with horse racing’s Cox Plate.
It is now on a collision course with another key date in the racing calendar, the Caulfield Cup on October 17.
“That will be the exact date, the weekend of the 17th anyway,” Auld said.
“But I know one thing’s for sure, it will probably change two or three times between now and then.”
Auld confirmed a “split round” would be required to work around quarantine issues in Western Australia and that will effectively extend the home-and-away season to 18 rounds.
West Coast and Fremantle have returned to WA after spending five weeks in Queensland for the season restart, but could still be required to hit the road again late in the season.
Queensland teams will also have to travel again, with the AFL still eyeing matches in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
AFLPA president Paul Marsh said the compressed fixture had raised some concerns about increased injury rates.
It comes at a time when clubs and players are not allowed to sign contracts amid uncertainty over the salary cap beyond this year.
“We’re a bit concerned about the risk that will present to players from an injury perspective, particularly in an environment at the moment where players can’t contract into next year so we are working through that detail,” Marsh told SEN.
“There’s been constructive talks the whole way through and I’m sure we’ll get there.”