“I think so [that there was enough consultation],” McLachlan said on Friday. “We have a competition committee that met regularly through the year with representation from the vast majority of the clubs.
“I certainly have had feedback from the comp committee that there was no surprise in the decisions [the rule changes] to them.”
On state league angst about zones, he said: “We have always trialled rules in the VFL and other competitions. I understand people don’t like change but I feel it’s the right place to be doing that.”
The challenge for AFL football boss Steven Hocking and the competition committee, McLachlan said, was the knock-on effects of rule changes.
“Everyone sitting in the calm light of day wants less congestion and they’re working through that in the way they think is the best way,” he said.
McLachlan also said he believed the players enjoyed the condensed part of the fixture in 2020, and there was an appetite for it again from clubs.
No decision has been made for the timing of next year’s grand final either, he said, leaving the door open for another night affair.
He said it would be highly unlikely 2021 would have 16-minute quarters, and the league was not planning or forecasting for hubs next year although there were contingencies for that if need be.
McLachlan said the fixture could be released later than usual to give more certainty in a fast changing landscape.
“Our plan and our start date will be 18 March next year, 22-round season,” McLachlan said.
“We look into 2021 knowing COVID will still be around. We are going to have to work through it to an extent. How pervasive it is and what the impacts are we don’t know.
“The later we can release the fixture the more certainty we can give our clubs, our players and our supporters.”
The AFL also confirmed they had reached an agreement with the AFLPA to vary the collective bargaining agreement in 2021 with each club to have total player payments of $12.1 million and additional services agreements capped at $1.09 million.
Each club will also have a minimum of 37 players on their list with a maximum of 44 players. The primary list must have no less than 36 players and no more than 38 players and the maximum number of category A rookies will be four to six players. The maximum number of players on the primary and rookie lists cannot exceed 42 while the maximum number of category B rookies shall be two.
Revenue sharing remained part of the agreement as uncertainty prevails around revenue.
McLachlan said the AFLW season was similarly fluid but a fixture would need to be released in early December so players can make work plans before the early February start.
Meanwhile, the AFL has released plans for a $225 million Marvel Stadium revamp in conjunction with the state government.
This includes new lighting, new outdoor communal areas, male and female change rooms, new entrances, revamped concourse spaces and upgrades to the stadium’s exterior.
“When construction starts we will be able to commence with the games ongoing,” he said. “The seating bowl will be largely unaffected.”
Anthony is a sports reporter at The Age.