A wildcard weekend and extended finals series would keep interest high and give the AFL an injection of excitement in the back-end of the season, Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury has said.
Speaking to the media via Zoom on Friday, the Pies' captain called for shorter preseason blocks in exchange for an extended finals series, again floating the idea of a wildcard weekend and a best-of-three Grand Final series.
Pendlebury said interest in the league tended to dwindle once a number of teams were out of the finals race, and enticing clubs and fans to stay invested deep into the season would be easy with a wildcard weekend pitting the ninth and 10th placed teams against each other.
"A wildcard would certainly keep those sides at 11, 12 and 13 in the hunt for longer and gives their fans more excitement - [and] gives the game more excitement. I feel that most years around Round 16 there's a lull for three or four weeks, so I think a wildcard would be pretty cool," he said. "I've said a best-of-three Grand Final series would be amazing to play in.
"Whatever we do that's different will create a tension first, but then it'll become the new norm, so it's a good opportunity this year to look at [other changes] like games with shorter quarters, (or a) night Grand Final and see how it goes."
Pendlebury's comments follow calls from Pies president Eddie McGuire for the game to break from tradition in such an out-of-the-box season.
"As a player, the preseason training block which goes for four or five months, and only then play for five months - as a player I'd like to do a two month preseason and play more football, so whether that's extending the season by playing everyone twice, I think most players would rather play than do preseason," Pendlebury said.
"I'm an advocate of extending the finals series anyway we can, I think that's the most exciting football of the years and fans seem to love it.
"The closest this to that throughout the season is the rivalry games, like the Showdown or [the Derby], so maybe even an extra rivalry game."
The Pies skipper, an avid American sports fan, also likened the shortened 2020 season of 17 games to the NFL season whereby every game is worth a lot more, though he isn't necessarily in favour of less football.
"I'm not against a 17-game season, I'm just against a five-month preseason to play 17 games," he said.
"A six week preseason to play 17 games [would be okay]. You can't afford to lose a couple of games, every game is so crucial. I'm looking forward to seeing how [this year] plays out, how sides adjust to a couple of bad losses in a row.
"I'm looking forward to it. I think we'll see some more exciting football."