No AFL coach entered 2020 under more pressure than Port Adelaide’s Ken Hinkley. But six rounds into the season, his side is a win clear on top of the ladder, and his tenure appears secure.
The AFL appears resigned to losing its famous “last day in September” next year when the league expands to 17 teams. It is likely the grand final will be held on October 1 next season.
The league has written to the 17 clubs and broadcast partners, advising of the likely key dates for next year and asking for feedback.
“The AFL is still working through the start date for the 2011 year but we may require to play into October for next year, which would place the grand final on Saturday, October 1,” AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan said.
Gold Coast’s admission means a more complicated draw because of the uneven number of teams, with each side to have two byes.
That will extend the home-and-away season by one week to 24.
Cricket commitments at the MCG, SCG and `Gabba mean the AFL probably cannot start the season a week earlier, so the grand final will probably be pushed back by one week.
The qualifying final draw in 1990 pushed that year’s grand final into October, while the 2000 grand final was held at the start of September because of the Sydney Olympics.
The one-week extension will only last for one season, because Greater Western Sydney’s entry in 2012 will return the AFL to an even-numbered league.
McLachlan said the AFL was also looking at how two options for how the complex home-and-away season runs with 17 teams.
“One model … has 22 weeks with a standard eight matches, with one team having a bye for each of those 22 rounds, along with one round where five matches are played with seven teams having byes and one round where six matches are played with five teams having byes,” he said.
“We can also play the season under a model whereby we play 19 rounds of eight matches per week, and then five rounds of seven matches per week where three teams have a bye each week for those rounds.”
The AFL’s proposed schedule is for the NAB Cup pre-season competition to start on February 12 and for round one to open on March 24 – effectively the same as this year.