22 rounds to be played across 23 weekends
• Bye weekend on eve of finals set to continue
• Standard round to stay the same, ending in Sunday twilight game
• Mid-season bye structure set to remain
• Thursday game on March 23 could kick-off round one
Clubs have been told to submit fixture requests for a season that could begin on Thursday March 23 next year.
However the date is yet to be locked in, with the AFL still considering the date of the opening weekend and the number of weekends to be used to complete the 22-round season.
The AFL is also working on the basis that the bye round ahead of the finals will continue in 2017, although that is yet to be confirmed.
The consultation process involves clubs, broadcast partners, players and venues and is expected to lead to a fixture announcement at the end of October.
AFL general manager clubs and operations Travis Auld said the standard round of football would feature matches on Friday night, two on Saturday afternoon, one Saturday twilight, two Saturday night, one early Sunday, one Sunday afternoon and one Sunday twilight.
The AFL also needed to consider player welfare, venue contracts, travel, maximising attendances, fan engagement, blockbuster and themed rounds and consistency of start times, expansion market objectives and rewarding on-field performance when developing its fixture.
The ‘weighted’ rule used in developing the 2014, 2015 and 2016 fixture will continue in 2017, the first season under a new broadcast deal.
The news led to AFLPA player relations manager Brett Murphy expressing concern that the proposed schedule did not consider implementing a second bye for players.
“While we appreciate that the details are not yet finalised, we are concerned that the proposed scheduling framework does not at this point contemplate the return of a second in-season bye,” Murphy said.
“The players overwhelmingly support the return of a second in-season bye, and believe this is a critical player welfare issue given the demands of the modern game.”
Murphy said he remained hopeful that the issue could be resolved in time for the 2017 season.
Round one (potential date) – Thursday March 23
Easter Thursday April 13-Monday April 17
Anzac Day Friday April 21 – Tuesday April 25
Round 23 (potential date) – Friday August 25-Sunday August 27
Week one – Finals – Friday September 8-Sunday September 10
AFL Grand Final – Saturday September 30, 2017
Essendon’s 2016 fixture breakdown
Round 1 Saturday March 26 v Gold Coast, Metricon Stadium 3:35pm (Foxtel)
Round 3 Friday April 8 v Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval 7:20pm (Seven)
Round 7 Saturday May 7 v Sydney, ANZ Stadium 4:35pm (Foxtel)
Round 11 Saturday June 4 v Fremantle, Domain Stadium 5:40pm (Seven)
Round 15 Thursday June 30 v West Coast, Domain Stadium 6:10pm (Seven)
Round 19 Sunday July 31 v Adelaide, Adelaide Oval 4:10pm (Foxtel)
Round 4 Saturday April 16 ‘Country Game’ v Geelong, MCG 1:45pm (Seven)
Round 5 Monday April 25 “Anzac Day’ v Collingwood, MCG 3:20pm (Seven)
Round 10 Saturday May 28 ‘Dreamtime at the G’ v Richmond, MCG 7:25pm (Seven)
Thursday night - One
Friday night - Two
Saturday - Eight (one night)
Sunday - Nine
Monday - One (Anzac Day)