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AFLPA pushes for two byes to return in 2016

The big matches to look forward to in 2015 There are some outstanding encounters ahead of us in the coming season
AFL Players' President Luke Ball addresses the media during an AFLPA press conference announcing Paul Marsh as the new AFLPA CEO, at the AFL Players' Association Boardroom on June 10, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
AFLPA president Luke Ball
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THE AFLPA will push for the return of a second bye in 2016 after next year's Cricket World Cup forced the AFL to schedule just one in 2015.

The players and their union are united in wanting two mid-season breaks to maintain health and wellbeing.

But the February-March World Cup has forced the AFL to start the season on the first weekend in April, which is also Easter, because of delayed access to the MCG, the Gabba, the SCG and Adelaide Oval.

This means the Grand Final will be held on October 3.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan explained on Thursday at the launch of next year's fixture the League had been hamstrung time-wise by the scheduling of the World Cup, which finishes with the final on March 29 at the MCG.

"The players we know want two byes but hopefully they understand with the World Cup being like it is and not being able to start until Easter, we're already going to finish the season in the first week in October," McLachlan said.

“There are compelling reasons why we have one bye."

But the players' union is adamant it wants the second break reinstated the following year after it proved successful this season.

In 2014, there were three rounds of six games in rounds 8-10, and then round 18 was spread over two weekends.

"The Players' Association has been a strong advocate for the provision of two byes per season – on the grounds of player health and welfare – and welcomed the introduction of an additional mid-season break this year," the AFLPA said on Thursday.  

"While we understand the practical difficulties facing the AFL fixture in 2015 given the Cricket World Cup – and the consequent loss of the second bye – we do however remain committed to the reintroduction of the second bye in 2016.

"We are continuing to work with the AFL to agree on additional measures to offset the impact of the lost bye and extended pre-season."

Recently retired Collingwood midfielder and AFLPA president Luke Ball said it was important for players to have significant down time during a long and physically demanding season.

"AFL players are unanimous in their support of two byes during a 22 game season," Ball said.

"It provides players with an important chance to recuperate and recharge physically, ensuring the best players from all clubs are playing as much as possible and at their very best."

The reaction to the 2015 fixture, which has seen timeslots such as Sunday and Monday night eradicated and a focus on the return of weekend afternoon football, has been largely positive.

McLachlan said increased consultation between general manager of broadcasting, scheduling and major projects Simon Lethlean with key stakeholders had helped.

"There will be quirks and issues and things that people pull out, and what happens is every time I ask about something that doesn’t look right, there's very clear reasons," he said.

"If you see things you think look a bit out of whack, whatever, there is a logical reason why it's there.

"I'm really pleased with where it's come out."

The AFLPA said it welcomed next season's structure and removal of most experimental timeslots.

"We would like to congratulate the AFL on delivering a fixture all clubs are seemingly satisfied with, which is no mean feat," it said.

"The composition of matches across the country appears to have positive outcomes for both clubs and fans in each respective state.

"The return to more traditional timeslots is already generating a lot of excitement about season 2015."

Twitter: @AFL_JenPhelan