Collingwood will be the darlings of prime time next year, with the Magpies handed 11 blockbusters matches following the release of the official 2019 AFL Toyota Premiership Season Fixture.
In addition to the annual Anzac Day and Queen’s Birthday matches, the Pies will feature in two Thursday night games and seven Friday night games throughout next season.
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“We’ve said for a number of years now that we want to reward the teams playing really good football,” the AFL’s general manager of clubs and broadcasting Travis Auld said.
“When it’s a team like Collingwood – such a big club with such a big supporter base – you want to take advantage of that. They’ve got their Thursdays and Fridays and a couple of marquee slots.
“Collingwood generally, when you look at it, end up with quite a number of big slots and marquee games. It’s not a massive increase on last year.”
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It comes as the AFL announces a fixture with eight Thursday night matches, one more than last season, with an emphasis on last year’s big entertainers getting more games in prime-time television slots.
There will be five Thursday night games in the first five rounds of the season and a further three during the bye rounds.
“You could fit more Thursday nights in through the season,” Auld said.
“We’ve used eight five-day breaks. Every team could have a five-day break, so technically you could have 18 five-day breaks.
“(But) we feel it’s the right balance when you’ve got the need to get the right venues at the right time of the year with the right opponents … but also you’ve got to maintain the interest throughout the entire round.
“When you take a game out of a Saturday or a Sunday, you’ve still got to have a strong round. We feel like, certainly for 2019, it’s the right number. I don’t see it increasing by a whole lot going forward.”
Essendon and Richmond will both play in eight prime-time matches, including six games each on either a Thursday or a Friday night. Melbourne, the AFL’s highest-scoring team last year, will play in three Friday night matches and a further Thursday night game.
At the other end of the spectrum, Carlton and St Kilda have been punished by the AFL for disappointing campaigns by being dumped from Friday nights.
Neither side will take part in a Friday night fixture throughout the season, with Carlton’s season-opening clash with Richmond its only prime-time game for the year.
Six teams will endure five-day breaks throughout the year, while Richmond and Melbourne will be asked to play after a four-day break due to their Anzac Day Eve commitments.
The reigning premiers West Coast will play in just three Friday night games, but it won’t have to wait long to reacquaint itself with Collingwood after a Grand Final rematch was scheduled on a Saturday night at the MCG in round three.
The Eagles will unfurl their premiership flag a week earlier when they host the Giants in their first match at Optus Stadium on a Saturday night in round two.
Dayne Beams, Lachie Neale, Jesse Hogan and Tom Lynch are among the players who will face their former clubs at their old stomping grounds, though Chad Wingard will avoid a return to the Adelaide Oval with Hawthorn set to face Port Adelaide in Launceston.
The AFL has also scheduled a potential ‘flex’ fixture in round nine, which could see two games switch days in order to accommodate the A-League Grand Final at Marvel Stadium.
Other notable fixtures details
– Carlton will meet Richmond at the MCG in their annual season opener.
– There will be a double header on Good Friday, with North Melbourne to meet Essendon at Marvel Stadium before West Coast hosts Port Adelaide at Optus Stadium.
– Brisbane will host Collingwood at the Gabba in a blockbuster Easter Thursday clash, which will kickstart a festival of footy where matches will be played on 10 of 11 days across the Easter and Anzac weekends.
– Melbourne will take on West Coast in Alice Springs in a replay of last year’s preliminary final, while it will also play Adelaide in Darwin.
– Friday night footy will return to Canberra in 2019, with Greater Western Sydney set to host Hawthorn in the nation’s capital in the round 21 primetime slot.
– The Western Bulldogs will host both Brisbane and Adelaide at Mars Stadium next year as Luke Beveridge’s side continues its agreement to play two matches in Ballarat.
– Hawthorn is set to host Carlton in Launceston next season, which will be just the second time the two clubs have met outside of Victoria. It is one of four Hawks home matches in Tasmania in 2019.
– Lance Franklin is due to play his 300th game in a blockbuster Friday night round 10 clash between Sydney and Collingwood at the SCG, with the fixture also set to kickstart the AFL’s annual Sir Doug Nicholls Round.
Story – AFL.com.au