Retired Collingwood premiership player Luke Ball has stepped down as AFL Players' Association president, with Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich and Geelong veteran Jimmy Bartel among the leading contenders to succeed him.

Despite his retirement at the end of last season, Ball had been expected to continue as president, as the players prepared to embark on upcoming talks for the next collective bargaining agreement.

AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh told News Ltd that Ball's decision had not come as a complete surprise.

The AFLPA board will meet on March 17 to elect a new president with Pavlich, Bartel and fellow board members Drew Petrie (North Melbourne) Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide), Ted Richards (Sydney Swans) and Will Minson (Western Bulldogs) all possible candidates for the top job.