Fears are growing that list sizes for the 2021 AFL season won't be finalised before the end of the trade period, prolonging anxiety for out-of-contract players.
Due to cost-cutting measures sparked by the COVID-19 shutdown, AFL club salary caps and list sizes are set to be reduced, but by how much remains up in the air.
Clubs, players and managers were confident the AFL would have decided on the future of the competition before the free agency and trade periods started.
But the process has dragged out longer than anyone could have imagined, with clubs still unable to give many out-of-contract players with any certainty with three days remaining in the trade period.
Melbourne chief executive Gary Pert called the process "bizarre" and Sydney Swans counterpart Tom Harley is equally perplexed.
"There's a lot more to it than just the trades that most people see," Harley told SEN on Monday.
"It's difficult not knowing what the list spots are and particularly when you're trading in future (draft) picks as well."
The Swans are looking at reviving former St Kilda forward Paddy McCartin's on-hold career but a future for the 24-year-old in NSW hinges on the size of lists.
Player agent David Trotter, who manages in-limbo Carlton midfielder Matt Kennedy, said the whole industry was frustrated.
"Now it's probably fair enough to assume we won't know by the end of trade period," Trotter told Trade Radio.
"The hardest part has not been having answers. There's always uncertainty for boys when they're out-of-contract or up for a trade.
"This year no one's got any answers. Clubs don't, we don't, which is just making it harder for everyone across the whole competition.
"We're all in it together. It's been a challenge for everyone and let's hope next year there's a bit more certainty around things."
Teams currently have between 38 and 40 footballers on their main list, and up to six rookies for a maximum combination of 44.
The trade period wraps up on Thursday, with the national draft taking place on December 7.
Australian Associated Press