The AFL has tightened its grip on the non-football months, with a two-day draft extravaganza headlining a new-look post-season.
A two-part trade period has essentially been extended to five weeks, with clubs able to trade picks all the way up until a week before the draft.
Live trading has also been introduced, which will add extra drama to this year’s draft at Etihad Stadium, which will be held on November 22 and 23.
The Thursday night will see the first round of selections only, with remaining rounds to play out the following day. The pre-season and rookie drafts will also take place on the Friday.
The period in which players can be traded has actually been shortened.
Beginning on October 5 – the Friday after the grand final – a new-look deadline will see the trade period close at 8.30pm on Wednesday, October 17.
But “part two” of the trade period will allow clubs to trade draft selections until 2pm on Friday, November 16.
The new off-season dates for the AFL essentially mean – with the AFLW fixture to be confirmed soon – football will dominate the sporting landscape for all of the year except December.
While AFL chief Gillon McLachlan was keen to take the draft to Tasmania this year, the introduction of live trading meant, logistically, it would be too difficult, with increased technology required.
It was suggested at league headquarters that the draft could take place simultaneously in Tasmania and at Etihad Stadium, but again logistical difficulties meant that was ruled out.
The live trading will see clubs allowed to trade future picks – only one year in advance – but not players that have been drafted earlier that night.
The AFL Players Association had raised concerns that it would be unfair on a player to be drafted to one club, then find himself at a different club at the end of the draft.
Ultimately, the AFL is working towards a model that would see the draft and trade period coincide in one mammoth event, where players and picks could both be exchanged.
While that day is potentially still years away, the league’s plan is to streamline the three forms of player movement – free agency, trade and draft – into one.
The AFL’s player movement group, comprising Geelong's Stephen Wells, Carlton's Stephen Silvagni, Fremantle's Brad Lloyd, Hawthorn's Graham Wright and new Western Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains, are in constant talks over the future landscape of player movement.