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by Johnson Leung reporting for AFANA in Melbourne

The AFL has released the schedule for the 2018 JLT Community Series, with several variations from previous years. One major change is that each club will only play two instead of three games during the period. Since the AFL preseason was revamped in 2014 with no ranking or overall winner, each AFL club was allocated three practice games during the period.There was some speculation that the length of preseason series was reduced to accommodate the new AFLX concept, however AFL General Manager Clubs and Broadcasting, Travis Auld, refused to confirm further details, only telling fans to “watch this space”. Auld said that reducing the number of preseason games was in response to feedback from clubs and AFL Players Association that the preseason competition has been too long. He said “…some (clubs) would like less games, some would like more games, we think we’ve struck the right balance with two.”

The other changes for the 2018 JLT series include no doubleheaders with AFLW games; only one game scheduled for a Friday night (Sydney facing GWS on March 9); no games will be played at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium; two preseason games will be held on a Wednesday night, with Ikon Park hosting Carlton v St Kilda on February 28 and Richmond v Melbourne a week later. The last time a preseason game was held on a Wednesday night was in February 2014 when Geelong defeated Collingwood by two points at Kardinia Park. Four venues will host preseason games for the first time: Kingston Twin Ovals in Hobart, Strathalbyn Oval in South Australia, Tony Ireland Stadium in Townsville, and Central Reserve in Colac in south west Victoria.

The 2018 JLT Community Series begins on February 24 when North Melbourne plays against Melbourne in Hobart and Essendon meeting reigning premiers Richmond in Wangaratta in north eastern Victoria. In 2012, the Bombers' decision to fly to Wangaratta was heavily criticized after their charter plane was forced to turnaround due to bad weather. Their opponents St Kilda was already there and ended up playing an intraclub game. The Eagles won't travel during preseason after copping a nightmare trip to regional New South Wales last year, but Fremantle heads to Strathalbyn on Sunday, February 25 to face the Crows. Gold Coast hosts Geelong in Townsville on March 4, which could be Gary Ablett’s first game against the Suns after seven seasons with the club.

All 18 clubs will have a bye during one of the two opening weekends, but each team will be in action in the final round from March 7-11. Eight Melbourne-based clubs will meet at regional Victorian and Melbourne suburban venues, while local rivalries between the Crows and the Power (Alberton Oval), the Dockers and the Eagles (Joondalup), the Swans and the Giants (Blacktown), plus the Lions and the Suns (Southport) have also been scheduled to reduce the amount of travel.

The 2018 JLT Community Series schdule is now available at the AFANA website.

Sources: afl.com.au, theage.com.au, heraldsun.com.au

Article last changed on Tuesday, November 07, 2017 - 5:22 PM EST


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