Carlton fitness guru Andrew Russell has called on the AFL to bring back substitutes to help clubs deal with short breaks between games that are expected when the season returns from the coronavirus break.
The league is desperate to squeeze a 17-round season, plus finals, into this calendar year if and when the green light is given to resume playing.
That will likely require teams to play a compressed fixture, sometimes playing three or even four games in a fortnight.
Russell, one of the code's leading conditioning experts, is confident teams will be able to manage that workload, but they will need four interchange players and two substitutes to do so.
"That's exactly what I'd be calling for ... I think that flexibility is going to be super important because we do string players out and we do take big risks with players every week," Russell told reporters on Tuesday.
"I think reducing that in-game risk week to week is going to be important.
"I'd love to see one or two subs that allow us to actually manage our players during a game because a lot of times you'll get to the second half and you'll have a decision to make with between one and three players.
"Do you leave them out there to enable you to win the game ... knowing that if you keep them out there you might lose them for one, two or three weeks?"
Each team was allowed one substitute in addition to four interchange players from the 2011 season, but the rule proved unpopular with players and was scrapped at the end of 2015.
The AFL has set down a period of one month for teams to undergo a mini-preseason in preparation to continue the season when given the all-clear.
Players across the league will train on their own until that point, with Russell confident they will be ready to go with even less lead time.
"I think within three weeks we can get them to be a in a pretty good spot," he said.
"One of the key things to building fitness is it takes three or four months to build a certain capacity in your body but it doesn't take much to maintain it.
"In terms of aerobic capacity you might have to (exercise) two or three times a week to build it, but you probably only need to do it once every 10 days to maintain it.
"That's the whole goal of the program we're giving these guys now."
Australian Associated Press