This would give clubs that have already contracted a high percentage of their players for the 2021 season a chance to renegotiate contracts.
Sydney, Greater Western Sydney, Brisbane and Gold Coast would all ideally like to keep their own sides in the NEAFL competition, but the clubs admit a reduction to 35 on a list would create significant problems.
Given each side takes 22 players and at least one emergency into an AFL game – and accounting for a handful of injuries – a list size of 35 would leave very few players remaining to play in second-tier competitions.
One of the possible measures spoken about by club bosses would lead to the four clubs coming together to create one state league side.
That team would travel to Melbourne every second week to play against VFL teams and would host games somewhere in Queensland or NSW.
That situation would be a disaster for coaching groups looking to align all of their listed players to a particular game style, although that fear is felt across much of the competition, with alignment between AFL and state league clubs up for debate.
As it stands, clubs are required to have at least 38 primary-listed players plus a number of category A and B rookies.
Rookie wages start at $85,000 – clubs are able to pay them more but any additional money would have to be included in the total player payments.
The players’ association is yet to talk to league officials about any possible reshaping of lists.
Changes to list sizes would require a renegotiation of the collective bargaining agreement.
The AFL had been working on the reshaping of lists for several months before the coronavirus hit.
A five-year working project has to be condensed into as many months.
“To be honest, I don’t mind the idea of cutting list sizes – and that was actually before any of this stuff happened,” Hawthorn star Jaeger O’Meara told AFL Media.
“There are so many players across the competition and maybe the talent gets a little bit diluted at the back end of lists.
“I think decreasing list sizes could potentially make the feeder competitions a lot better, and then the guys who maybe needed another two or three years at a lower level come in and they’re a lot better equipped for the rigours of AFL footy.
While some clubs still have more than 10 players out of contract heading into next year, other clubs such as Gold Coast (41) and the Brisbane Lions (36) have committed to the majority of their players for the 2021 season.
The phased approach by the AFL would ensure clubs aren’t forced to break contracts, which is seen as a last resort by all parties.
Sam McClure won the Clinton Grybas rising star award at the AFL media association awards in 2015.