AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan is not looking beyond the 2021 season when it comes to his own future.

After navigating the industry through the devastation of COVID-19 last year, McLachlan said this season would also provide a unique set of challenges.

"I don't plan far ahead at all, I've been an employee of the AFL for a long time, I look at the year ahead and that’s about as far as I think," McLachlan told

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"But I am enjoying it and it's not something I'm discussing beyond that. And you shouldn't read that any way other than I am enjoying it and I've got a plan and hopefully I'm doing my bit.

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Taking it one year at a time: Gill on crowds, fixturing, and his future

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan speaks to Damian Barrett

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"We have a clear agenda to sort out this year, it is not without its challenges, my focus at the moment is completing the women's season, getting the men's season underway, providing a landscape for as many of our supporters to get to the football if they can, have a Grand finalist, work out our investment map going forward, discussions with clubs.

"I don't look too far beyond this year, we have got things to do, I am enjoying it, and got a plan we are working towards."

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McLachlan has been with the AFL since 2000 and its CEO since early 2014.

Gillon McLachlan at a media conference back in 2008. Picture: AFL Photos

"Everyone has good days and bad days, I've been in this a long time, but overall I have absolutely loved my time and continue to love my time, and feel the privilege and responsibility of being in a role that is so important to so many people," he said.

The AFL has formally fixtured the opening six rounds of the 2021 season, and is yet to reveal how rounds 17 through 22 will look.

"We haven’t made a definitive decision (on that)," McLachlan said. "It will be informed by the environment, and trying to marry that up with the flexibility we have. I realise it is an imperfect response but we have already had five lockdowns in five different states this year and border closures in others.

"I say this to supporters – it has been an unbelievable past 18 months, your commitment has been incredible and we want you back at the football. We will give you as much certainty as we can."

Asked if in an ideal world he would seek to lock-in all matches beyond round six, McLachlan said: "At a period of time, yes, and again, I realise that is an imperfect answer. Yes, as long as it is late enough to minimise risk."

Since the completion of the COVID-19 disrupted 2020 season, the AFL has sought to re-establish a link with some of the game's traditions, including 22 home and away season matches, 20-minute (plus time-on) quarters and a day Grand Final (on Saturday September 25).

"All those things were done as a response, and not to be permanent," McLachlan said of the drastic changes last year.

"The day Grand Final is a slightly different response. We played a night one last year, I was there, I thought it was amazing. Certainly from a Victorian lens, people having not been to a football game for nearly 18 months, I think we are looking at celebrating some of the rituals of going to our game and a day Grand Final has been around for a long period of time. Certainly in our mind were the rituals and habituals."

Asked if the AFL had been too conservative in some of its initiatives for 2021, McLachlan said: "The great challenge for us is to make progressive decisions, be where the ball is going, but not make them so quickly that you don’t bring the heritage and the tradition and the conservative with you, so that is the balance we are always trying to marry up. If I've ever had feedback, it is probably more on the progressive side than the conservative side."