McLachlan cited Brisbane as another example. Three or four years ago, there was an exodus and those who stayed needed reassurance from the AFL about their futures.
Since, the traffic has reversed. Luke Hodge and now Grant Birchall imported Hawthorn’s premiership know-how. Lachie Neale arrived to win this year’s Brownlow Medal, Charlie Cameron came from Adelaide at the same time and the Lions made this year’s preliminary final. Next year, another high-profile free agent, Joe Daniher, might lob.
“I think you create the right environment and players make decisions for their own reasons,” said McLachlan. “I think that’s how the system works.”
As McLachlan counted down the hours to the end of a unique season, he said that one of the lessons was that the game could be nimble. It means some of this year’s necessities might become next year’s virtues.
“Do we need to put the fixture out in advance?” he asked, rhetorically. “I think that might be a legacy. It’s under discussion now. Does the fixture have to be set in advance, or can we be more flexible?”
This season’s stringencies have meant the fixture was announced sometimes only a week in advance. Normally, the whole season is set in stone months beforehand and can’t be budged.
“The way it is just how it’s always been,” said McLachlan. “But does it need to be? Can you get better games on Friday nights by rolling out four to six weeks in advance? Can you have a fixture where people all lean in a bit better?”
This season’s other forced change was 16-minute quarters, reduced from 20 minutes, a measure to protect players in a more condensed roster. McLachlan said this was less likely to be retained. “We won’t do 16 minutes next year,” he said “Shorter’s not bad, but 16’s too short. We will look at it.”