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The 2018 fixture verdict

AFL Media  October 31, 2017 1:16 PM

The Cats will play Melbourne in round one of the 2018 home and away season - AFL,Fixture,Geelong Cats

The Cats will play Melbourne in round one of the 2018 home and away season

PROS: This year's minor premier and eventual runner-up will be buoyed by playing six games at their Adelaide Oval fortress in the opening nine rounds, including four consecutive fixtures there from round six to nine. This includes the Grand Final rematch against reigning premier Richmond in round two. The Crows have a chance to build on their strong record under lights, given they've been allocated 14 night games and five twilight games. They were also granted their wish of being given a home match against North Melbourne to mark the 20th anniversary of their 1998 Grand Final win over the Kangaroos.

CONS: Perhaps their most challenging time will be when they have consecutive six-days breaks leading into big round 16 and 17 clashes with Richmond (MCG) and Geelong (Adelaide Oval) respectively. Their round five clash with Sydney at the SCG will also be the Crows' first minor-round game in New South Wales since 2015.

PLAY TWICE: Richmond, Greater Western Sydney, Port Adelaide, Melbourne, Carlton.

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Essendon (a), Richmond (h), St Kilda (a), Collingwood (h).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Port Adelaide (h), GWS (a), North Melbourne (h), Carlton (a).


GAMES AT THE MCG: Just two (one fewer than this year), and they'll be played under lights against Hawthorn in round 13 and Richmond in round 16. 

THEY SAY: "The League has again rewarded clubs which play attacking and entertaining football and have large passionate supporter bases both at the ground and tuning in to watch via the various broadcast platforms. Our fans always turn out in big numbers to games across the country and should take great pride in seeing their team on show on the national stage in premium timeslots. From a football perspective, we also get two games at the MCG including the likelihood of a blockbuster crowd when we confront the Tigers in Round 16 which is fantastic." - CEO Andrew Fagan 

WE SAY: The Crows couldn't have hoped for much more after finishing second this year – they've been awarded plenty of air time in key slots, and their abundance of early home games should again have them somewhere near the top of the ladder by mid-season. They'll also have two games against their former defender Jake Lever, now at Melbourne, in Alice Springs in round 10 and at Adelaide Oval in round 19. - Ben Collins 

PROS: A very friendly opening to the season, with just three of their first nine matches against finalists from 2017. The Lions can also cash-in financially with home matches against powerhouse Victorian clubs Collingwood, Hawthorn, Essendon and Carlton.

CONS: Once again no Friday (or Thursday) night lights, but it's hard to argue with given such a poor record over recent years. Just one match at home in the first month and playing just once at the MCG for the season also hurts.

PLAY TWICE: Gold Coast, Greater Western Sydney, Collingwood, North Melbourne, Hawthorn.

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: St Kilda (a), Melbourne (h), Port Adelaide (a), Richmond (a).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: North Melbourne (h), Collingwood (a), Gold Coast (a), West Coast (h).


HODGE v HAWKS The four-time premiership Hawk will run out against his former teammates in round nine at the Gabba.


WE SAY: All in all the Lions have to be happy. They have a generous fixture early (despite the lack of home games) and have a chance to notch wins before the Melbourne powerhouses come to the Gabba, where hopefully the crowds will flock. They'll have to travel to play former skipper Tom Rockliff in round three, but home games against Hawthorn (round nine) and Adelaide (round 18) will have extra spice for new recruits Hodge and Charlie Cameron. - Michael Whiting 


PROS: One of the great surprises of the fixture announcement was the news the lowly Blues would play four Friday night games, in addition to their annual season-opener against reigning premier Richmond. This year Carlton played just one Friday night game. They were also rapt to be awarded a home game at the MCG against Collingwood, a luxury they were disappointed to miss out on this year. The Blues have also gained an extra home game at Etihad Stadium, lifting the figure to six, as part of a stadium deal that will further boost the club's bottom line.

CONS: The Blues will have seven six-day breaks, and will endure back-to-back six-day breaks leading into rounds 10 and 11 against Geelong at the Cats' GMHBA Stadium and against Sydney at the SCG, before their mid-season bye. Also, they will again play six interstate games.

PLAY TWICE: Gold Coast, Collingwood, Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Fremantle.

BYE: Round 12

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Richmond (a), Gold Coast (h), Collingwood (h), North Melbourne (a).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: GWS (h), Fremantle (a), Western Bulldogs (h), Adelaide (h).


THE WOOD OVER THE 'WOODS: The Blues have won two of their past three encounters against old rival Collingwood and will look forward to their meetings in rounds three and 14. 

THEY SAY: "Overall, we are pleased with the 2018 fixture and believe our supporters will be very satisfied with it too. Pleasingly, we have drawn strong home games at the MCG with match-ups against Essendon and Melbourne which will no doubt attract large crowd numbers. Our supporters will welcome the news that we will again host Collingwood in a home game at the MCG, which was a glaring omission from our 2017 fixture. Our stadium negotiations have resulted in the club securing a sixth game at Etihad Stadium which will return a significant financial outcome for the club. Subsequently, the financial benefits will allow further investment into our football program." - Club president Mark LoGiudice. 

WE SAY: All the Blues' dreams have come true, given their exposure in prime slots despite enduring a barren period. Fans will no doubt take note of their clashes with former club champion Bryce Gibbs, now an Adelaide Crow at Adelaide Oval in round seven and at Etihad Stadium in the final round. - Ben Collins 

PROS: By virtue of slipping to 13th and into the bottom-six fixturing band, the Magpies have been handed a softer draw in which they'll play three of the last year's bottom-six teams twice and will face just two double-ups against top-12 teams (premier Richmond and finallist Essendon). They've been given three Friday night games – one more than they had this year – though none after round 10. They also travel interstate just four times, with decent gaps in between each contest.

CONS: Disadvantaged by a four-day break into their post-Anzac Day clash with Richmond, which will have had almost an extra day of recovery. Their resilience will also be tested by consecutive six-day breaks in rounds nine and 10 against fellow finals hopefuls St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs.

PLAY TWICE: Richmond, Essendon, Fremantle, Carlton, Brisbane Lions.

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Hawthorn (a), Greater Western Sydney (h), Carlton (a), Adelaide (a).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Sydney (a), Brisbane Lions (h), Port Adelaide (h), Fremantle (a).


ANOTHER BAPTISM OF FIRE: The Pies will face five of this year's finalists in the first eight rounds. At least it's not as bad as the nightmare that was served to them this year when they played each of last year's top-four sides in the opening eight rounds.

THEY SAY: "As a total package it is a favourable draw: on-field, broadcast and most importantly for our fans. The fixture presents great opportunities from a team performance perspective. We think the balance is right, we play ten of our first 12 games in Melbourne and our travel is well spaced across the year. You can’t understate the magic of a Collingwood-Carlton or a Collingwood-Essendon clash at the heartland of footy, the MCG. In 2018 there will be a number of these big footy occasions that the club will share with the Collingwood Army." - Interim CEO Peter Murphy

WE SAY: Given a reasonable run with injury, it seems the Pies won't get a much better chance to end their run of four successive seasons without finals action, and the Magpie army should be particularly optimistic about enjoying a strong run home. – Ben Collins

The Magpies and Bombers will meet in the tradtional Anzac Day clash. Picture: AFL Photos

PROS: The reinvigorated Bombers are set to relish plenty of prime-time exposure next season, with four Friday night games, a Thursday clash with West Coast at the new Perth Stadium in round 14, and four Saturday night games in addition to their traditional Anzac Day clash with Collingwood. Despite making the finals this year, they will face just one top-six team twice and that's reigning premier Richmond.

CONS: The Dons' fitness and medical departments will need to be at their optimum when the club plays three games in just 10 days. After their Anzac Day clash with Collingwood, they play Melbourne four days later, and then Hawthorn six days after that.

PLAY TWICE: Richmond, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, Collingwood, Fremantle.

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Adelaide (h), Fremantle (a), Western Bulldogs (a), Port Adelaide (h).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Hawthorn (a), St Kilda (h), Richmond (a), Port Adelaide (a).


HAPPY AT HOME: The Bombers will host blockbusters at the MCG against big Victorian rivals Collingwood (Anzac Day), Hawthorn, Geelong (Country Game) and reigning premier Richmond (Dreamtime at the ‘G).

THEY SAY: "It's pretty exciting. I think the AFL has certainly rewarded us for our exciting brand of football and on-field performance. That is something that we'd hope would come, once we started playing attractive football and the fans really start to come out and see it, for us that's really exciting. It's great to be back on prime time, in particular on Friday nights" – CEO Xavier Campbell

WE SAY: After being one of the best-performed club in the Trade Period, landing Jake Stringer (Bulldogs), Devon Smith (GWS) and Adam Saad (Gold Coast), the Bombers have been gifted another favourable draw that could provide the foundation for a return to the top four. - Ben Collins

PROS: After missing out on the rights to open Perth Stadium, Fremantle has won a bonus home game against Gold Coast in round three. It means 13 games at Perth Stadium, including four of the first six. Two trips to the MCG is generous.

CONS: Coming out of the bye the Dockers will have two six-day breaks in a three-week period. They'd want to be rested. They travel to Geelong in round 22 on a short break.

PLAY TWICE: West Coast, Port Adelaide, Essendon, Collingwood, Carlton.

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Port Adelaide (a), Essendon (h), Gold Coast (h), Greater Western Sydney (a).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: West Coast (a), Carlton (h), Geelong (a), Collingwood (h).


THE FIRST DERBY: Fremantle will host the very first Western Derby at Perth Stadium, in round six on Sunday, April 29


WE SAY: Missing out on opening Perth Stadium should not matter. Fremantle opens the stadium to its own fans one week later and will be able to host them in four of the first six weeks. For a young team, having the best chance to start the season well will be important and the home advantage provides that, despite some tough opposition. Only five night games and a total of three on free-to-air TV nationally means the Dockers will be out of the spotlight. - Nathan Schmook 

PROS: Cats fans will see nine home games at the newly-named GMHBA Stadium, with just Easter Monday against Hawthorn and a round 13 blockbuster against premier Richmond as 'home' matches at the MCG. If things get tight late in the season, they have home matches against Melbourne, Brisbane Lions, Fremantle and Gold Coast in the final six weeks.

CONS: It's not so much the six short turnarounds Geelong has, but who its opponents are the following week. The Cats face West Coast (away), Port Adelaide (away), GWS, Essendon, Sydney (away) and Richmond off six-day breaks.

PLAY TWICE: Melbourne, Hawthorn, Gold Coast, Sydney, Richmond

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Melbourne (a), Hawthorn (h), West Coast (a), St Kilda (h)

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Richmond (a), Hawthorn (a), Fremantle (h), Gold Coast (h)


GAZZA'S FIRST HOME GAME: While technically 'home' for the Easter Monday match against the Hawks at the MCG, Geelong fans will see Gary Ablett back in the hoops at the Cattery for the first time in round four against the Saints.

THEY SAY: "Playing nine games at our home ground for the first time in many years will have a huge benefit to all stakeholders, and we think this also makes the fixture fairer from an integrity point of view. Our supporters constantly give us feedback of the importance of playing more games here. That the AFL has been able to work through this is a credit to their willingness to engage and listen to the people that support the club and the game so well. To have Carlton playing here for the first time since 1997 will be a huge day for supporters of both clubs. We are also excited by the on-going Powercor Country Festival match up with Essendon at the MCG in round 9." - CEO Brian Cook

WE SAY: The Cats can be all smiles with this draw. Their season is bookended by a sporting first month (three of the first four against non-finalists from last season) and a friendly final six weeks where they don't have to leave Victoria. In between the fixture is loaded with mouth-watering match-ups, although back-to-back Thursday nights away to Adelaide and Sydney will be tough. Nine matches on their home deck – where they've traditionally had such an advantage – is a huge win. - Michael Whiting

Geelong's round four clash with St Kilda will see Gary Ablett come 'home'. Picture: AFL Photos

PROS: In the first five weeks, the Suns will line up against the other four teams from last season's bottom five – that's more than a sporting chance. If they can navigate the first half of the season, seven of the final 12 games are at Metricon Stadium, including successive matches against big-drawing Collingwood, Essendon, Carlton and Richmond.

CONS: Nine matches on the road to start Stuart Dew's time in charge is brutal, including 'home' games in Cairns, Perth, Brisbane and Shanghai. Rack up those frequent flyer points, boys.

PLAY TWICE: North Melbourne, Carlton, Brisbane Lions, Melbourne, Geelong.

BYE: Round 10

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: North Melbourne (h), Carlton (a), Fremantle (h), West Coast (a).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Melbourne (a), Richmond (h), Brisbane Lions (h), Geelong (a).


FIRST GAME AT METRICON STADIUM: Round 11, and it's a beauty against Gary Ablett and the Cats.

THEY SAY: "We couldn't be happier to see six big Victorian clubs come to Metricon Stadium in 2018. Despite an interrupted start to the season due to the Commonwealth Games, we are thrilled to be hosting the calibre of teams we are at Metricon Stadium in the second half of the season. Our first game back at Metricon Stadium in round 11 against Geelong will be a huge welcome home party, and the fixture builds from there." CEO Mark Evans

WE SAY: With Metricon Stadium unavailable for the first 10 weeks due to the Commonwealth Games, this was always going to be a tricky draw, but the Suns have done well. Some winnable games early and back-to-back weeks in Perth along with a couple of games in Brisbane will at least mitigate against the number of flights. Welcoming Gary Ablett back in round 11 is a game for Suns fans to circle. - Michael Whiting 

PROS: A generous start to the season on paper, with Sydney the only opponent in the first six weeks that played finals in 2017. When things get tight late in the season, hosting Sydney and Adelaide in the final three weeks could be a big win for the Giants, both commercially and in a football sense.

CONS: One of the best performed and most exciting teams over the past two seasons has drawn just one Friday night game – away to Geelong in round seven. The Giants also play just twice at the MCG (Collingwood in round two and Melbourne in round 23), and will face grand finalists Richmond and Adelaide off six-day breaks.

PLAY TWICE: Sydney Swans, St Kilda, Brisbane Lions, West Coast, Adelaide.

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Western Bulldogs (h), Collingwood (a), Sydney Swans (a), Fremantle (h).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Carlton (a), Adelaide (h), Sydney Swans (h), Melbourne (a).


CAN THEY WIN ON THE MCG?: After being demolished by Richmond twice last season at the home of footy, the Giants get chances against Collingwood and Melbourne to refine their game on the biggest stage.

THEY SAY: "This is a fixture that will see the Giants continue to play in a number of high-profile games across the season. Spotless Stadium has consistently been voted the number one ranked venue for fan experience in the country and we are pleased to be hosting big games against Richmond, Essendon and Hawthorn in front of a national audience on Channel 7. Our Sydney-based members and fans enjoy the family friendly twilight slot and we are delighted to still play the majority of our Spotless Stadium games at 4.35pm on Saturdays against quality opposition such as the Swans, St Kilda, Brisbane and the Gold Coast." - CEO David Matthews

WE SAY: They'd be happy with the soft opening to the season, but the Giants would be scratching their head at a few other things. No Friday night games at home, when last season's fixture against the Western Bulldogs was a raging success, and the short turnarounds to play both Richmond and Adelaide would be tough to swallow. - Michael Whiting 

PROS: The Hawks start the season with their first four games at the MCG, don't travel to Adelaide Oval at all, and travel to Perth once. Five six-day breaks is at the low end.

CONS: The Hawks have one of the toughest draws in terms of double match-ups for a middle-six team. They also have a tough run to finals, playing Essendon, Geelong, St Kilda and Sydney to finish the season.  

PLAY TWICE: Geelong, Sydney, Essendon, St Kilda, Brisbane Lions

BYE: Round 12

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Collingwood (h), Geelong (a), Richmond (a), Melbourne (h)

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Essendon (h), Geelong (h), St Kilda (a), Sydney (a)


SAY HI TO 'HODGEY': Melbourne-based Hawthorn supporters will have to travel to see both games against the Brisbane Lions, which are scheduled for round nine (The Gabba) and round 17 (University of Tasmania Stadium).

THEY SAY: "Overall the club is really pleased with the 2018 fixture and believe it is a strong draw for our members and fans. We have drawn a number of blockbuster home games at the MCG and in particular big match-ups against Collingwood, Geelong, Essendon and Sydney. We are excited to kick off the season with a home game against Collingwood, in a blockbuster game on a Saturday night at the MCG." Chief operating officer Tom Silvers

WE SAY: The Hawks can consider themselves unlucky to land the double match-ups they did. Essendon and the Western Bulldogs for example, which finished higher than the Hawks, play only Richmond and West Coast respectively from the top six twice. It's going to be an uphill battle for Alastair Clarkson's men, but one Perth trip and none to Adelaide will help. - Nathan Schmook  

PROS: Six of Melbourne's first seven games are in Victoria and three of its last four are at the MCG. The Demons again received the Anzac Day eve match against Richmond they wanted, despite it falling on a Tuesday, and the clash with the reigning premiers is sure to be a blockbuster.

CONS: The Dees' only Friday night game is at Adelaide Oval, against Port Adelaide in round 14.

PLAY TWICE: Adelaide, Geelong, Gold Coast, St Kilda, Western Bulldogs.

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Geelong (h), Brisbane Lions (a), North Melbourne (h), Hawthorn (a).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Gold Coast (h), Sydney (h), West Coast (a), Greater Western Sydney (h).


HOW MANY CHANCES TO END THE HOODOO? North Melbourne holds a remarkable 17-match winning streak against Melbourne. Simon Goodwin's side has one chance to end that in 2018, at the MCG in round three.

THEY SAY: "Opening the 2018 season, playing a home game against Geelong at the MCG, in what will be a blockbuster match, is not only exciting for the club, but also exciting for our supporters. We have no back-to-back six-day breaks and no back-to-back interstate travel, which is pleasing. Once again, continuing the tradition of the Anzac Eve match against the Tigers, next year on a Tuesday night, is a fantastic result for both teams. We look forward to, what is not only a chance to acknowledge the significance of the night and occasion, but also play in front of a huge crowd." - CEO Peter Jackson

WE SAY: The Demons have not made finals since 2006 but the fixture is set for them to finally break that drought. They beat Adelaide in South Australia this year, so that trip holds no fears. Meanwhile, the Demons should be quietly confident in facing Gold Coast, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs twice. No home matches at Etihad Stadium is always good news for Dees supporters. - Dinny Navaratnam 

The Demons' only chance to break its long hoodoo against North comes in round three. Picture: AFL Photos

PROS: The Kangaroos were rewarded after their campaigning for football to be played on Good Friday with another match in the timeslot, which will be against St Kilda, rather than the Western Bulldogs as was the case this year. They face each of the Queensland-based teams twice, with Gold Coast and the Brisbane Lions, which finished 17th and 18 respectively in 2017, again expected to be near the bottom of the ladder.

CONS: North will have at least six six-day breaks – possibly seven, depending on how the final round shapes up. Also, there is just the one Friday game.

PLAY TWICE: Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast, St Kilda, Sydney, Western Bulldogs

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Gold Coast (a), St Kilda (h), Melbourne (a), Carlton (h).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Brisbane Lions (a), Western Bulldogs (h), Adelaide (a), St Kilda (a).


AFTER A POOR SEASON ON-FIELD, HOW MUCH PRIME TIME EXPOSURE IS THERE? Not much for the Roos, which is not surprising, although they will be happy to host Good Friday. Just one of their four Saturday night games will be in Melbourne. However, they host Carlton under lights at Blundstone Arena in round four.

THEY SAY: "Our members and supporters should be really excited with the fixture as it’s well balanced and gives them plenty of opportunities to see the team play. We play at our home ground, Etihad Stadium, 11 times across the season and in all, it’s a very family friendly schedule with several Sunday games where kids enter free. Finishing 15th last year was disappointing but this fixture allows our young playing group a chance to really step up. It will be a challenging year but with some uplift on field together with the ongoing support of our members an fans, we will make the most of it." Roos CEO Carl Dilena

WE SAY: After finishing 15th, the fixture does not look too bad for North. Playing the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast twice will help its chances of winning more often in 2018, and the Kangaroos will not leave Victoria through June and all but the last week of July, when they host West Coast in Tasmania. However, included in that stretch is a trip down to GMHBA Stadium to face Geelong in round 12, which is always a daunting challenge. - Dinny Navaratnam 

PROS: An 'away' game in China, against Gold Coast, was the focus. An extra Friday night match has been scheduled for 2018, up from one this year.

CONS: One game in the Thursday night timeslot, compared to two in 2017. Just two matches at the MCG, which does not give Port much of a chance to acclimatise to the venue if it makes finals as expected.

PLAY TWICE: Adelaide, Essendon, Fremantle, Western Bulldogs, West Coast.

BYE: Round 10

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Fremantle (h), Sydney (a), Brisbane Lions (h), Essendon (a).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Adelaide (a), West Coast (h), Collingwood (a), Essendon (h).


WHEN WILL THE BIG-NAME RECRUITS COME UP AGAINST THEIR FORMER SIDES? Tom Rockliff faces the Brisbane Lions in round three, Steven Motlop will be on show against Geelong in round five and Jack Watts confronts Melbourne in round 14, with all three of those matches to be at Adelaide Oval.

THEY SAY: "We are excited to be playing the majority of our 11 home games at night. We host one game in the Thursday night timeslot, two on a Friday night, four as a twilight Saturday fixture and one on a Saturday night. From our member feedback and attendances over the last four seasons at Adelaide Oval the night and Saturday twilight fixtures are by far the most popular." - CEO Keith Thomas

WE SAY: Port was already in top-four contention for 2018 after its off-season, and the fixture should suit that aim. West Coast will probably fall down the ladder, so facing the Eagles twice works well for the Power. Similarly, doubling up against the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle does not seem daunting. - Dinny Navaratnam

PROS: The Tigers are back on the big stage after winning the flag, earning eight Thursday/Friday night games (up from two in 2017). They open the season with six of their first seven games at the MCG, and close with four of their last five on their home ground.

CONS: The only bottom six team Richmond plays twice is Collingwood, arguably the toughest of the group. Essendon and St Kilda are also tough double meetings from the middle six. Rounds 11-17 are difficult, with six straight games against 2017 finalists.    

PLAY TWICE: Adelaide, Geelong, Essendon, St Kilda, Collingwood

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Carlton (h), Adelaide (a), Hawthorn (h), Brisbane Lions (h)

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Geelong (h), Gold Coast (a), Essendon (h), Western Bulldogs (h)


ANZAC EVE PENALTY: Included in the Tigers' seven six-day breaks is a five-day turnaround following their Anzac Eve clash against Melbourne. The Tuesday night match will be a historic first.


WE SAY: A premiership gets you back on the big stage, and the Tigers will be thrilled with that after being bumped off the Friday night stage altogether on 2017. They have maintained their marquee matches against Melbourne and Essendon and have a fixture that should result in big crowds again. They have fared reasonably will with the double match-ups from the top six, but less so with the middle and bottom brackets. Hosting Sydney at Etihad Stadium will probably frustrate the club, with their fans showing a reluctance to cross to the Docklands venue. - Nathan Schmook   

PROS: Nabbing the big stage on Good Friday is exciting for a team that could use a bump in exposure. The Saints again have four matches on Fridays to equal this year's tally. There is just one trip to Adelaide Oval, where the club is 0-8, having gone to South Australia twice a season since 2014.

CONS: Playing off six-day breaks on six occasions hurts as the club aims to make finals for the first time since 2011, and having them fall consecutively in round 15-17 is a tough challenge. There are two trips to Perth within three weeks, in round eight to face Fremantle, then round 11 against West Coast.

PLAY TWICE: Greater Western Sydney, Hawthorn, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Richmond.

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Brisbane Lions (h), North Melbourne (a), Adelaide (h), Geelong (a).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Western Bulldogs (h), Essendon (a), Hawthorn (h), North Melbourne (h).


DO THE TEAMS ST KILDA FACE TWICE HELP OR HURT ITS FINALS CHANCES? An early look shows if the Saints make finals, they will have done very well. Richmond and GWS will probably feature in the top four and are both tough challenges, even if the Saints did beat both sides in 2017. Coming up against Melbourne twice looms as a challenge, with the Demons expected to improve next year, while Hawthorn is a real chance to rebound into a finals team next season.

THEY SAY: "To be part of Good Friday is a great result for St Kilda fans and we look forward to partnering the Kangaroos to support the Good Friday Appeal and make it one of the showcase games on the football calendar. Our supporters will also welcome the opportunity to watch live from the stands or their lounge rooms with so many games on either Friday or Saturday night." CEO Matt Finnis

WE SAY: Consecutive six-day breaks are not great, but St Kilda handled it well last year, going 3-1 when playing off shorter rests. Two games in Perth within 21 days is a tough task for the fitness staff as well. Having said that, the chance for a decent start looms, with just one trip outside Victoria in the first seven rounds, while six of the Saints' last seven matches will be at Etihad Stadium. - Dinny Navaratnam 


PROS: Plenty of prime-time action, with five Friday night games and two Thursday nights. The Swans host Adelaide, Geelong, Carlton and West Coast in these prized timeslots and play blockbusters against Hawthorn and premier Richmond under the bright lights in Melbourne. They also get the honour of playing the first game at Perth Stadium in the opening round against West Coast.

CONS: The cost of the prime timeslots is the Swans have eight six-day breaks, including successive short turnarounds to play Gold Coast and Essendon in round 18 and 19. They also have a tough start to the season, with five of their first six opponents playing finals last season.

PLAY TWICE: West Coast, Greater Western Sydney, Geelong, North Melbourne, Hawthorn.

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: West Coast (a), Port Adelaide (h), GWS (h), Western Bulldogs (a).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Collingwood (h), Melbourne (a), GWS (a), Hawthorn (h).


SWANS v HAWKS: Two chances to see the best modern-day rivalry in footy – round eight at the MCG and round 23 at the SCG.

THEY SAY: "We look forward to welcoming Port Adelaide to the SCG on Easter Sunday for our first home game of the season, while the annual Marn Grook at the SCG clash will no doubt be another memorable night in Sydney. To have another eight games in Victoria is a huge win for our supporters and we know we’ll be able to count on them to turn out in full force when we’re on the road." - CEO Andrew Ireland

WE SAY: It's a fixture built around prime-time viewing – first game at Perth Stadium, hosting Adelaide on a Friday night, playing Hawthorn at the MCG on a Friday night and then back-to-back Thursday night games against Richmond and Geelong after the bye. From a footy perspective, the first six weeks is very tough. Last season the Swans were 0-6 at the same stage and still made the finals, but if they can make a better fist of things next year, things open up nicely in the lead-up to the bye. - Michael Whiting 

PROS: Hosting the inaugural men's AFL match at Perth Stadium is a huge boon for West Coast, which had been fiercely vying for that right with Fremantle. A total of 12 games at the venue, including an 'away' match against Gold Coast, is a boost for the Eagles' finals chances.

CONS: Only two chances for the Eagles to show their wares on Thursday or Friday, with one of those an away clash, against Sydney at the SCG in round 13. Coming up against three finalists from 2017 twice poses a challenge for a team that scraped into the top eight.

PLAY TWICE: Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, Port Adelaide, Sydney, Western Bulldogs.

BYE: Round 12

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Sydney (h), Western Bulldogs (a), Geelong (h), Gold Coast (h).

LAST FOUR WEEKS: Fremantle (h), Port Adelaide (a), Melbourne (h), Brisbane Lions (a).


WHAT ARE WEST COAST'S MUST SEE GAMES AT PERTH STADIUM? West Coast's first time at the ground, against Sydney in round one, will be hugely exciting, while the round six derby against Fremantle is sure to be a massive occasion.

THEY SAY: "We were really excited when the AFL announced last week that we would open the season at our new home. To play seven of our first 11 matches at arguably the best stadium in the southern hemisphere will help us create a unique environment and a true sense of it being home. Unfortunately, it is never all good news and we're disappointed that we have only four games in Melbourne, which is not an ideal outcome for our growing band of Victorian members and fans. But the upside is that two of those games are at the MCG." CEO Trevor Nisbett

WE SAY: The Eagles have lost plenty of experience from their list but 12 matches at Perth Stadium keep their finals chances alive. However, facing GWS, Port Adelaide and Sydney twice makes that task extremely tough, and if the Western Bulldogs bounce back to their 2016 form, making the top eight seems unlikely. - Dinny Navaratnam 

The Eagles will host the Swans in the first AFL match at the new Perth Stadium. Picture: AFL Photos

PROS: Although there are some tough opponents early, the Dogs play six of their first eight at home, including successive matches against 2017 strugglers Carlton, Gold Coast and the Brisbane Lions in rounds six to eight. They also feature prominently in the prized Thursday (one) and Friday (four) night slots.

CONS: The first month is tough. The Dogs play four finalists from last season before a trip west to take on Fremantle at the new Perth Stadium.

PLAY TWICE: West Coast, Port Adelaide, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Carlton

BYE: Round 12

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: GWS (a), West Coast (h), Essendon (h), Sydney (h)

LAST FOUR WEEKS: St Kilda (a), North Melbourne (a), Carlton (a), Richmond (a)


THE DOGS v JAKE: After the messy trade to Essendon of former All Australian Jake Stringer, the round three match against the Bombers at Etihad Stadium is sure to have fans at fever pitch.

THEY SAY: "We are excited to be strengthening our commitment to Ballarat by being scheduled to play two home games at Mars Stadium, after the success of the inaugural game last season. The fixture is positive from a football perspective, giving us the opportunity to play 17 games in Victoria, including 13 games at Etihad Stadium and six home games against Victorian based clubs." - Club president Peter Gordon

WE SAY: If they can look past the first month, the Bulldogs would be happy with their draw. They play 13 matches at Etihad Stadium, where they were almost invincible in their premiership year, and two at Ballarat. Of their five trips interstate, only one is off a short rest. And if the Dogs are within striking range of making the top eight, the final month looks very friendly. - Dinny Navaratnam