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2018 AFL Premiers West Coast

Collingwood and Essendon have emerged as big winners of the 2019 AFL schedule, sharing more than a dozen marquee games on Friday nights and public holidays. The highly-anticipated scheduled was due to be revealed on October 31, but was pushed back by 24 hours after some clubs raised concerns to the League regarding the schedule, having received a draft at the start of the week.

Collingwood will have seven Friday night games next year, two more than the next most, Hawthorn and Sydney. The Pies won’t have to wait too long for their Grand Final rematch against West Coast, with that game to be held at the MCG in Round 3 on the Saturday night. Essendon will play on Good Friday for the first time (against North Melbourne), as well two Thursday night and four Friday night games, in addition to their Anzac Day, Dreamtime at the ’G, and the Country games. AFL General Manager of Clubs and Broadcasting, Travis Auld, said the League had unashamedly backed Essendon in, after their form in the second half of this year and then recruiting Dylan Shiel from GWS. He believed these factors would create momentum around the club which would lead to bigger crowds and TV ratings.

Port Adelaide will have a new opponent for their annual China game with St Kilda replacing Gold Coast after three years. It will be St Kilda’s first overseas game for premiership points since their NZ experiment ended in 2015. The Saints will earn around A$2 million for moving their home game to Shanghai, after signing a three-year agreement with the Power, the AFL, and the Victorian Government. After the Shanghai game in Round 11, both teams will have a bye before the Saints travel to Townsville to face Gold Coast at Riverway Stadium in Round 13 -- the first AFL regular season in the North Queensland city. The Suns previously played a home game in Cairns from 2011 to this year.

Carlton is the biggest loser from the 2019 schedule. The club received four Friday night games for this year despite their poor form in 2017, and the move was widely panned by fans. After the Blues finished on the bottom of the ladder with only two wins this season, the League finally reacted, banishing the club from all Friday night timeslots next year. The only high profile slot the Blues would keep is the season opener against Richmond on Thursday March 21. St Kilda, Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast, and Fremantle will also miss out on Friday night games in 2019.

There will be eight Thursday night games in 2019 - one more than this year. Richmond will play three of those games, with Collingwood, Essendon and Adelaide playing two each. The Thursday night games will be held in two batches – five games from Round 1 to Round 5, and three games from Round 13 to Round 15. The increasing number of Thursday night games was made possible after the AFL Players Association agreed in early October to allow for five-day breaks for players. Six teams: Adelaide, Brisbane, Essendon, Geelong, Sydney, and the Western Bulldogs - have been handed five-day breaks, while Richmond and Melbourne cop a four-day break before their Anzac Day eve game on Wednesday night.

For the first time in AFL history, there will be two "flexible" rounds without fully preset times: one in Round 23 leading into the finals, and one in Round 9 due to the Grand Final of the A-League (the Australian equivalent of Major League  Soccer) being played on the same weekend. In Round 9, the AFL has scheduled Essendon v Fremantle at the recently rebranded Marvel Stadium (formerly Etihad Stadium) on Saturday night, May 18, and Port Adelaide v Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval on early Sunday afternoon, May 19. However, these two games will swap timeslots if Melbourne Victory gets to host the A-League title decider at Docklands. The AFL, which now owns the venue but is subject to the A-League's existing contract with the stadium, said a decision should be possible by March 2019, so fans of affected clubs can make arrangements.

With the timing of Easter close to Anzac Day next year, there will be football played on 10 of 11 consecutive days from April 18-28, with no game played on Tuesday April 23. For the first time there will be two games played on Good Friday: North Melbourne v Essendon in Melbourne and West Coast v Port Adelaide in Perth at night. 

There will be a time change for most Sunday afternoon games in Perth. They will start at 3.20pm local time (3.20am US EDT) so they will finish just before the high-rating 6 PM news on local broadcaster Channel Seven. The only exception is the Round 21 clash between West Coast and Adelaide which will kick off at 2.40 PM local time (2.40 AM US EDT). Ironically, this will push the games into a less favorable slot for US television.

Former Gold Coast co-captains Steven May and Tom Lynch will next year play against one another, when Melbourne take on Richmond at the MCG on Wednesday, April 24. This is just one of the anticipated games during which players face their former clubs: Essendon recruit Dylan Shiel will play against GWS in the opening round while Rory Lobb (GWS) and Jesse Hogan (Melbourne) are set to face their former clubs for the first time in Round 5 and 14 respectively. Hawthorn’s new signing Chad Wingard will play against his former club Port Adelaide in Round 10, while Lachie Neale returns to Perth as a Brisbane Lion in Round 10 for a Sunday clash versus Fremantle.

Here is the club-by-club summary of the 2019 schedule.

Adelaide will host Hawthorn in the opening round of 2019, for only the third time in club history (1991 when the Crows entered the national competition, and 2011). The Hawthorn clash will be one of five games against big Victorian teams, including Collingwood, Richmond, Essendon and Geelong. The Crows will play two Thursday night, three Friday night games and four Saturday twilight games. They will only play once at the MCG (the fewest since 2011), a Saturday afternoon game against Carlton in Round 19, which will see Mitch McGovern pitted against his former side for the first time. The Crows will play twice against West Coast, Geelong, Port, St Kilda and Gold Coast.

Brisbane will once again host Collingwood on Easter Thursday in Round 5, which is massive as Dayne Beams, having returned to the Pies after four seasons with the Lions, will play against his former side for the first time. The Lions will play eight Saturday home games, six games in Victoria (two at the MCG) and will meet Hawthorn in Launceston for a third year in a row. Hawthorn is the only 2018 finalist the Lions will double up against, while the club will also play twice against Gold Coast, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and Western Bulldogs.

Finishing on the bottom of the ladder means Carlton should receive an easier schedule in 2019. The Blues only get two night games next season – Round 1 against Richmond and Saturday, Round 13 against the Bulldogs. 16 of their games will be played in the traditional Saturday and Sunday afternoon time slots. They will play twice against 2018 finalists Richmond and Sydney, as well as St Kilda, Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast. Four of their six interstate games will come in the first nine rounds of regular season. They will play Richmond, Sydney, Bulldogs, St Kilda and Gold Coast twice.

Collingwood will play two Thursday night and seven Friday night games as well as Anzac Day and Queen's Birthday (it will be the first time since 1999 that the Pies will be the home team for the traditional clash against Melbourne), giving the club lots of exposure on broadcast TV. They will play all but two games at the MCG in the first half of the season (including the first four) and six of their first seven games under lights. Losing to West Coast in the 2018 Grand Final, the Pies’ schedule will be tougher than this season, when they were coming off a low finish in 2017 and so had a soft bottom third of the ladder schedule. Next year they play fellow top four teams West Coast, Richmond and Melbourne twice, and also double up against Essendon and Bulldogs.

Games against St Kilda in Round 2 and Brisbane in Round 4 should give Essendon a chance to a flying start, but at the cost of four six-day breaks in the first six rounds, plus a five-day break before their Round 8 game against the Swans. They will travel to Sydney twice in the first half of the season with other games in Melbourne. Last four games in regular season against Port Adelaide, Bulldogs, Fremantle and Collingwood could decide whether the Dons will make the finals. They will play twice against Collingwood, GWS, Sydney, North Melbourne and Fremantle.

Fremantle will have a dream start to the 2019 AFL season, facing three non-finals teams (North Melbourne, Gold Coast and St Kilda) in consecutive weeks. The Dockers have the advantage of playing four non-finals sides twice - Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Essendon and St Kilda - as well as the Eagles. They face three long trips to Tasmania, Queensland and Canberra, but their only away trip in the first month is against Gold Coast in Round 2. They also have more Saturday night and fewer Sunday home games (five in 2019, seven in 2018), as per their wish.

A relatively favorable schedule for Geelong with ten of their first 12 games in Victoria, including five at home. They will host Essendon and Hawthorn at the MCG with the other nine games at Kardinia Park. The Cats have a five-day break between Rounds 2 and 3. Games against Brisbane and Carlton in the final two rounds could boost the club's percentages before the finals. They will play twice against Hawthorn, Sydney, North Melbourne, Adelaide and Bulldogs.

GWS will have a tough start to the new season with games against Essendon and 2018 finalists West Coast, Richmond and Geelong in the first month. Importantly, the Giants get to play two games at their home ground Sydney Showground Stadium before the venue is required for the annual Sydney Royal Easter Show. The Giants only play once on Thursday night and Friday night (against Hawthorn in Round 21). The Friday clash will be one of three games GWS will host in Canberra, the other two opponents being St Kilda and Fremantle. GWS will play four home games on mid to late Sunday afternoons, and three games at the MCG mid season – the most since 2014. They will play Richmond, Hawthorn, Sydney, Essendon and Gold Coast twice.

Gold Coast’s home games will be evenly spread throughout next season after their 2018 schedule was affected by preparations for April’s Commonwealth Games. The Suns will play GWS, Adelaide, Brisbane, St Kilda and Carlton twice. The Suns will face St Kilda, Fremantle, Bulldogs and Carlton in the first four rounds of the season. The club will host Carlton and Richmond during Victorian school holidays, and Adelaide in the July South Australian school holidays.

Hawthorn has a mixed schedule. Apart from four games in Tasmania, the Hawks will play 13 games and only travel five times. Conversely, the Hawks will start and finish the regular season with away games interstate, their last MCG home game is against Collingwood in Round 16 (also their only Friday night home game) while their last Melbourne home game is against Gold Coast at Marvel Stadium in Round 22. The Hawks will play four games on Sunday mid afternoons, but only five Friday night games, one Saturday night game and no Thursday night games. In the last nine rounds the Hawks will play interstate teams seven times, including GWS, Brisbane and West Coast in Rounds 21-23. They will play the Eagles, GWS, Geelong, North Melbourne and Brisbane twice.  

For reaching the preliminary final for the first time in 12 years, Melbourne have been rewarded with one Thursday and three Friday night games, plus the Wednesday night game against Richmond, in an otherwise difficult schedule. Melbourne will play 2018 finalists Geelong, Sydney, Richmond and Hawthorn within the first seven rounds of the season, and Richmond, Collingwood, Sydney and North Melbourne in the final four rounds. The Demons will get to play up to eight blockbuster games against rival clubs including Collingwood, Richmond and Essendon. The Round 4 game against Sydney will be the club’s first Thursday night game since 2011. The club will against play two home games in Northern Territory next year: against Adelaide in Darwin in Round 11 and against West Coast in Alice Springs in Round 18. The Demons will be the away team in the Queen’s Birthday clash against Collingwood, before hosting the game in 2020 and in even years after that. They will play twice against fellow top four sides West Coast, Collingwood and Richmond, as well as Sydney and St Kilda.

For the first time, North Melbourne will play four home games in Hobart, Tasmania, against Sydney, GWS, St Kilda and Melbourne, however the club will still get to play 11 games at Marvel Stadium. The Kangaroos will play at least four times on Friday during 2019: the Good Friday twilight clash against Essendon, and night games against Port Adelaide, Richmond and Hawthorn. The drawback is that the Roos have back-to-back trips in Round 18 (Brisbane) and 19 (West Coast). They will play Geelong, Hawthorn, Essendon, Port Adelaide, and Brisbane twice.

Port Adelaide have no five-day breaks for the season and just one six-day break in the opening nine rounds, and will play three Friday games including their first ever Good Friday game against West Coast. After four consecutive games at Adelaide Oval including the away Showdown against the Crows, the Power have a tough finish to the regular season with games against Richmond, GWS, Essendon, Sydney, North Melbourne and Fremantle. Port will play twice against Richmond, North Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and Brisbane.

Richmond have a point to prove in 2019 after unexpectedly losing to Collingwood in this year’s preliminary final. The Tigers will have an early chance for revenge when they take on the Pies on Thursday night in Round 2. It will be the first time the Tigers play consecutive Thursday night games with the season opener against Carlton. Overall the club will play three times each on Thursday night and Friday night. The club will play 13 games at the MCG (including the last seven rounds of the season) and just five interstate trips once again. They will play twice against Collingwood, Melbourne, GWS, Port Adelaide, and Carlton.

St Kilda has arguably the easiest schedule in 2019 according to Champion Data. They will open the season against Gold Coast, and will double up against only one 2018 finalist (Melbourne). The Saints have no back-to-back six-day breaks (five in total) and an even spread of interstate travel across the 23 rounds. However their exposure will be affected with no Thursday or Friday night games, and only four Saturday night games. Apart from Melbourne, the Saints will play twice against Gold Coast, Fremantle, Carlton, and Adelaide.

Sydney is one of big winners from the schedule with one Thursday night and five Friday night games. The Swans will host blockbuster games against Melbourne, Essendon, Collingwood, Hawthorn, Geelong, and West Coast. They have a run of four games at the SCG in Round 10 to 15, including possibly Lance Franklin’s 300th game in Round 10. The Swans will play twice against GWS, Carlton, Geelong, Essendon, and Melbourne.

West Coast will begin their 2018 premiership defense in Brisbane when they play the Lions, before unfurling their premiership flag in Round 2 when they host GWS on the Saturday night. The Eagles will host three home Friday night games as well as a Thursday night game against Essendon straight out of the bye. The club will have at least five six-day breaks, with the possibility of a sixth heading into Round 23. West Coast also have three MCG clashes, their equal-highest tally at the venue since 2005. They have a tricky finish to regular season with games against Adelaide, Richmond, and Hawthorn. Apart from Fremantle, the Eagles will play twice against Collingwood, Melbourne, Hawthorn, and Adelaide. 

The Bulldogs will play their first five games in Melbourne, including three at their home ground Marvel Stadium. The Bulldogs will play only one Friday night game after a poor 2018 but receives seven Saturday night games. They have 12 games at Marvel Stadium, including four consecutive games from Round 16 to Round 19. The club will travel interstate five times, but only once in the first 10 rounds (against Fremantle in Perth). Their two home games in Ballarat are against Brisbane in Round 8 and Adelaide in Round 23. They will play twice against Collingwood, Geelong, Fremantle, Brisbane and Carlton.

Source: The Age, Herald Sun, The West Australian, AAP, club websites

Article last changed on Wednesday, November 07, 2018 - 1:49 PM EST

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