The AFL Commission will meet in SA today before the function and speculation is rife that the league will finalise the new pay deal.
The six-year collective bargaining agreement will have a dramatic impact, with the players likely to receive an immediate 20 per cent increase in 2017.
That would turn some players into instant millionaires and also deepen the war chests at some clubs as they go after big-name recruits at the end of the season.
It will also trigger a raft of contract negotiations, with players such as Adelaide’s in-demand Jake Lever having postponed talks with their club until the league’s pay deal is signed off.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has said for several weeks that the league and the players association are close to finalising the six-year deal.
The atmosphere is much different to the off-season, when there was some talk of strike action or other player protests as the drawn-out negotiations stalled.
In early February, Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury said if the players association had asked, he would have had no hesitation in sitting out a quarter in a pre-season match.
But unlike the ongoing stalemate between Cricket Australia and players in their pay talks, for the AFL and the AFL players association it is now a question of when, not if, their deal will be struck.
Today is an obvious candidate, given the Hall Of Fame is one of the biggest functions for the AFL and most of the game’s key figures will be in Adelaide.
One key factor will be what changes are made to the free agency rules.
McLachlan confirmed last month that the league has looked at several proposed changes.
One potential new element is a player earns lifetime free-agency if he has been at the same club for eight years.
Also tonight, the AFL will bestow another former great with legend status at the gala function in Adelaide.
Past superstars Jason Dunstall, Wayne Carey, Gary Ablett and Malcolm Blight are reportedly in the running to become the AFL’s 27th official Legend.
The announcement will be made at the annual Hall of Fame dinner at Adelaide Oval.
“We have six people going into the Hall of Fame and one person, who is already in the hall, being upgraded to legend status,” an AFL spokesman said.
Of the six inclusions, at least two must be recent retirees whose careers finished in the past decade.
Another one of the half-dozen must be a coach/umpire/administrator or media representative.
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