More Thursday night games are on the agenda after the players signed off on the AFL scheduling one five-day break per team in 2019.
The AFL Players’ Association confirmed on Wednesday the players had agreed to the fixturing clause, which could allow for the number of Thursday night matches to increase from seven plus a final in 2017 to potentially 12 next season.
“Players have approved the introduction of one five-day break per club for the 2019 season to provide the AFL with greater fixture flexibility,” general manager player and stakeholder relations Brett Murphy said.
“While player welfare is our primary fixture priority, the players are committed to working with the industry to create the best product possible for fans.”
Previously, the players’ CBA said that clubs should always have a six-day break unless the draw had to cater for unusual circumstances like the games scheduled on Anzac Day eve and Anzac Day.
The approval from the players will allow the League to bolster the number of Thursday night games, which have largely been popular with television audiences in particular.
The players will also enjoy an increased Christmas leave period this year, as per a memo sent out to the clubs in July.
The mandatory leave window – up from two weeks to three – will be enforced for coaches, staff, and players at clubs to allow personnel to spend more time with their family and friends.
Clubs are permitted to choose the exact dates over the festive season to shut down and have been encouraged to work with the AFLPA when planning their respective leave periods.
The first session of pre-season training for the 2019 season could be held in just 26 days with clubs that didn’t play finals able to bring back their first-to-fourth-year players on Monday, November 5.
Subsequently, the full groups from non-finalists North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Essendon, Adelaide, the Western Bulldogs, Fremantle, Brisbane, St Kilda, Gold Coast, and Carlton can start training on Monday, November 19.
Elimination final losers Geelong and Sydney can start on Monday, November 12 (first-to-fourth years), with their full groups joining on Monday, November 26.
Hawthorn and GWS – after bowing out in the semis – and preliminary final losers Richmond and Melbourne can’t start their youngsters before Monday, November 19 and full groups before Monday, December 3.
Those dates also apply to grand finalists West Coast and Collingwood.