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Player loans on the cards

  - Gold Coast Suns

English Premier League-style short-term player loans could be introduced this year as the AFL continues its push for a mid-season player movement period.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan told reporters on Wednesday that if he could change one thing about the competition it would be to free up player movement so struggling clubs could rebuild more quickly than today's standard five- or six-year period.

McLachlan reiterated his desire for the introduction of a mid-season trade or draft period – or both – to allow clubs to bolster their lists outside of the existing October trade period and November's national, pre-season and rookie drafts.

In a pre-season briefing that was also attended by League football operations boss Steve Hocking, a reporter asked whether the AFL would consider allowing a club to loan a player for the rest of a season rather than trading him.

"It's all on the table," Hocking replied.

To emphasise the point, McLachlan added: "Steven is looking at everything."

Hocking would not rule out the introduction of a mid-season player movement period this year, but McLachlan acknowledged some clubs had been resistant to change.

"It's been a very slow U-turn, it's like trying to turn around one of those ships that comes through the Heads," McLachlan said of the AFL's attempts to convince clubs of the merits of more player movement.

"I just feel currently that our player movement has the ability to be opened up further. You have one trade period for that two weeks and you have one draft.

"Two weeks after the trade period you get Sam Docherty do his knee and he's an All Australian last year and one of Carlton's most important players and you've got (retired Saint) Leigh Montagna sitting on the sidelines who might be able to a job for a year.

"Carlton might be two years off from competing for a flag, but if it was Brodie Smith and he [injured his ACL] after the draft and Adelaide is right in that flag window you should have some more flexibility, and I think the same thing applies when you come into the middle of the year.

"Two years ago, Port Adelaide lost all their ruckmen. So you've built for four or five or six years to be in the flag spot, and to have no flexibility if you've got a specific amount of injuries doesn't make much sense to me."

McLachlan said a mid-season trade period would have the added advantage of giving bottom clubs a stronger bargaining position than usual in negotiations with finals contenders.

"It's the only time of the year when the lower-ranked team has got leverage because the team competing in the finals needs to get the deal done," McLachlan said.

"I like the fact the hand is with the team lower down the ladder."

One of the other mid-season options the League has floated is allowing a club to promote a stage league player for the rest of the season on the proviso that player would be made available to every club in the draft at the end of the year.

Under this option, McLachlan said the AFL would have to consider how to adequately compensate state league clubs that lost players

In a wide-ranging briefing, McLachlan also said:

  • The pre-finals bye, which was introduced in 2016, could be scrapped after this season. "It's certainly going to be here this year [but] if Steve comes up with a plan and wants to do different things around a mid-season draft that may mean that we have a whole week off and do a trade period or whatever," he said.
  • The AFL had not made a call on whether the Grand Final would be moved to a twilight timeslot this season. "I feel it's inevitable at some point, but everyone's got to feel it's the right time to try it. One day it will feel right, I don't know when that will be," he said.