The big winners when the AFL announced the 2020 schedule on October 31 included Richmond, Collingwood, Essendon, the Western Bulldogs and Brisbane. Richmond will play on Thursday nights in first two rounds of the season as well as six Friday night games, while Collingwood will appear on Thursday night three times and Friday night five times. The Bulldogs scored five and the Lions earned four Thursday or Friday night games - up from just one for each club this year, as reward for their form improvements during the season. Essendon will play four Thursday night games and two Friday night games. At the other end of the scale, St Kilda and North Melbourne will each make one appearance on a Friday, with Fremantle and Gold Coast missing out on both prime time slots.
AFL General Manager of Clubs and Broadcasting, Travis Auld, said the Bulldogs and the Lions had been given more Thursday and Friday night games as “…they play an exciting style of football ... fans like that and we see that impact through (television) audiences … We've been really clear with clubs that you will see a correlation between the style of football you play and access to those big, prime time slots.”
The regular season kicks off on Thursday, March 19 with the traditional clash between Richmond and Carlton in the MCG. The Blues will be on the Thursday night stage twice within the opening three rounds with a Round 3 home game against Essendon. The Tigers have to wait until Round 7 for the Grand Final rematch against GWS on a Saturday afternoon at the MCG. The two teams will also meet in Sydney in Round 15 on a Saturday night. There will be nine Thursday night games in 2020, one more than this year. They will be played in two batches, in the first five rounds and again from Round 13 to Round 16 during the mid-season bye. Essendon will play the most number of Thursday night games with four, while Hawthorn will play on Thursday in consecutive weeks for the first time, against Brisbane in Round 15 and Essendon in Round 16.
With Anzac Day falling on a Saturday for the first time since 2015, there will be four games on that day, with the annual clash between Collingwood and Essendon scheduled as a standalone game at 4.20 PM AEST (2.20 AM US EDT), which is understood to have the blessing of veterans organization The Returned and Services League (RSL - equivalent of the VFW in the US). The Pies-Dons game will be preceded by Hawthorn versus West Coast in Launceston and followed by two night games: Sydney traveling to the Gabba to take on Brisbane while Port Adelaide will take on the Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval.
North Melbourne’s only Friday game in 2020 is the Good Friday twilight game at Marvel Stadium, raising money for the Royal Children’s Hospital's annual Good Friday Appeal telethon. After playing Essendon this year, the Kangaroos’ opponent in 2020 will be the Bulldogs, three years after Luke Beveridge’s men were dumped from the same marquee game. The Roos-Dogs game will be the first of two games on Good Friday, with Port Adelaide hosting West Coast in the evening on that day.
Port Adelaide will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2020 (the original club was founded on May 12, 1870) with players wearing the black and white “prison bar” jumpers against cross-town rival Adelaide in the "Showdowns" in Round 2 and Round 13. (Port Adelaide adopted the “prison bar” strip in 1902 and went on to win 31 SANFL Premierships and 3 Championships of Australia, before the club was admitted to the AFL in 1997.) The Round 13 game will also be the only Sunday afternoon game of the round as it occurs during the mid-season bye.
Some of the anticipated games during which players face their former clubs include: Adelaide v Carlton in Round 12 in which Eddie Betts will face his former Crows teammates; Gold Coast recruit Brandon Ellis comes up against his former Richmond teammates in Round 18 at Metricon Stadium, and West Coast signing Tim Kelly facing his former Cats teammates in Round 3 in Perth, and then in Round 16 for his return to Geelong.
The AFL has tentatively left open the Saturday twilight spot in Round 5 for the AFLW Grand Final, sandwiched between four men's AFL games. The league has also scheduled eight games with five-day breaks for clubs - the same number as this season. A flexible schedule has been retained for Round 23, despite speculation they would also leave the previous round open to scheduling changes after the Tokyo Olympics.
Here is the club-by-club summary of the 2019 schedule.
The Crows should enjoy a good start to their season with four of their first five games at Adelaide Oval, followed by St Kilda, Gold Coast, Fremantle, Melbourne and Carlton. However they have to travel all over the place, with trips to Perth, Gold Coast, Alice Springs, Geelong, Sydney and Tasmania. Remarkably, in the final six rounds the Crows will face only Victorian clubs.
The Lions were rewarded with their first finals appearance in ten years with an easier schedule. They will host four bumper Thursday or Friday games at home in Rounds 4, 8, 14 and 15. They play only two double-up games against top 6 sides and they don’t leave Queensland in the last three weeks of the season. However they only play five games in Melbourne during the regular season.
The Blues only play one top 6 side (Richmond) twice plus double-ups against Western Bulldogs, Sydney, North Melbourne and St Kilda. They play only five games outside Victoria in 2020, one less than this year, but they include two trips to Adelaide in four weeks. They will have four six-day breaks, as well as a five-day break leading into a Thursday night blockbuster against Essendon. They don’t leave Melbourne in the last seven weeks but will face tough opponents Sydney, Brisbane, West Coast and Richmond during the period.
The Pies have been allocated 14 games at the MCG, five against interstate clubs. Seven of their last nine games are the MCG. Their only home game at Marvel Stadium is against North Melbourne in Round 10. The Pies have tough double-ups including Richmond, West Coast and Brisbane. After the Round 12 bye the Pies have six difficult games against Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Richmond, Geelong and Fremantle.
The Bombers face only one 2019 finalist (GWS) in the first five rounds after middling starts to previous seasons. They only travel outside Victoria twice in the first half of the season but have to endure three road trips in last seven rounds, one five-day break and seven six-day breaks. The club has to play twice against two of this year’s top four (GWS and Collingwood) and just one bottom six team (Sydney).
The club’s first season under the coaching of Justin Longmuir begins with an away game against Essendon, followed by Hawthorn at home in Round 2. The Dockers will play four night games at Optus Stadium, including the only Sunday night game of the season – against Geelong to conclude the Anzac Day Round 6. They have double-ups against the Western Bulldogs plus this year’s three bottom six teams – St Kilda, Melbourne (the Round 3 clash is the Dockers’ only regular season game at the MCG), Gold Coast. They will travel to Hobart for the first time for a clash with North Melbourne at Blundstone Arena in Round 5.
Geelong will play 12 night games in 2020, including six Friday night games, equal most in the league with Richmond. However, despite lobbying for 11 home games at GMHBA Stadium, they will only get nine home games at the venue, including three in a row from Round 19 to Round 21. Their home games at the MCG are against Hawthorn on Easter Monday and Essendon in Round 8. The Cats have to travel to Perth twice in April, three weeks apart, but only travel to Sydney and Adelaide once each. They will play GWS, West Coast, Hawthorn, St Kilda and Brisbane Lions twice.
Gold Coast will play in Darwin for the first time since 2012, against St Kilda in Round 13, as part of the Suns’ new relationship with AFL Northern Territory which also sees the club getting priority access to Darwin playing talent. The bottom team of 2019 will play a home game at the Top End for the next four years, replacing Melbourne. That leaves 10 home games at Metricon Stadium, including big games against Carlton and Hawthorn during the Queen’s Birthday long weekend and Victorian school holiday period. They have double-ups against Brisbane Lions, Port Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Fremantle.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
The 2019 runner-up will have a mixed start to the new season, with games against bottom six teams Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Coast coupled with tough clashes against top eight sides Geelong, Western Bulldogs and Essendon in the first six rounds. They will play Richmond, Geelong, Western Bulldogs, Essendon and Sydney twice. Most of the Giants’ interstate travel are directed towards Victoria where they play eight games as opposed to three in 2019. GWS will play in five Saturday nights and two Friday nights.
Hawthorn will play at the MCG three times in Rounds 1 to 4, then at Marvel Stadium three times in the following four rounds, including a Round 5 home game against Carlton. The Hawks’ home games in Tasmania are against West Coast (Round 6), Port Adelaide (Round 10), North Melbourne (Round 17) and Adelaide (Round 21). They get two home Friday night games against Melbourne and Geelong plus consecutive Thursday night games in Round 15 (Brisbane) and Round 16 (Essendon), and five Sunday games including four in the first eight rounds. They will play Brisbane, Sydney, Geelong, North Melbourne and Port Adelaide twice.
The Demons will get 10 home games at the MCG for the first time since 2010 after declining to renew a deal to play a home game in Darwin, but will continue to play a home game in Alice Springs for the next four years (in 2020 the opponent will be Adelaide). The Demons will play outside Victoria to start and finish the season, part of their seven interstate trips including away games against the Eagles and the Dockers. The club have one top-six team twice – Collingwood plus double-ups against Fremantle, St Kilda, Gold Coast, Adelaide. Their Anzac Eve clash against Richmond will be played on the Friday night which will be a highlight along with the Queen’s Birthday game versus Collingwood.
North Melbourne keep their Good Friday game but otherwise won’t feature on Thursday and Friday nights. In their second home in Hobart the Kangaroos will host Fremantle in Round 5, Brisbane in Round 13 before the bye, Gold Coast in Round 19 and Melbourne in Round 23. They cop only one top 6 team from 2019 (Brisbane) but have to play twice against the improving Carlton, Essendon, Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs.
Port Adelaide will get lots of prime time exposure in 2020 with four Friday night and seven Saturday night games. Six of them will be at Adelaide Oval including Anzac Day and Good Friday games against Western Bulldogs and West Coast respectively. The Power will play St Kilda in Shanghai in Round 11, the week after facing Hawthorn in Launceston. They will start and finish their regular season outside South Australia, and will also cop seven six-day breaks, which is three more than this year.
The reigning premiers have a tough two months to start the season, with big games against Carlton and Collingwood followed by clashes against improving St Kilda, Adelaide, West Coast, and the club’s 2019 finals opponents GWS, Brisbane and Geelong. The Tigers have five game straight at the MCG from Round 9 to 14 including hosting North Melbourne in a regular season game at the venue for the first time since 2012. Their only home game at Marvel Stadium is against Port Adelaide in Round 16. They will hit the road three times in the final six rounds of the season, including a trip to Adelaide to face the Crows in Round 20 and a Round 23 visit to Optus Stadium in Round 23 to take on Fremantle. They will play twice against Carlton, Collingwood, Adelaide, GWS and West Coast.
Brett Ratten’s first season in charge of St Kilda begins with the Sunday afternoon clash against North Melbourne, the first of the club’s eight games in Victoria, seven at Marvel Stadium. The Saints will be on the road six times, including trips to Shanghai and Darwin before and after the Round 12 bye. They will play Melbourne, Adelaide, Carlton, Geelong and Fremantle twice. They only get one Friday night game and miss out on Thursday night games.
Sydney will play at home four times in the first seven rounds of the season. Their home schedule alternates between night and afternoon time slots over the first 14 rounds, including big games against Carlton, Collingwood and Hawthorn. Conversely, the Swans don’t play in Victoria until Round 9 which will annoy fans from the South Melbourne days. They will play two Thursday night and one Friday night game. They have double-ups against Essendon, Gold Coast, Carlton, GWS and Hawthorn.
West Coast have been handed the AFL's toughest schedule for the 2020 season, with two games in Queensland (against the Suns in Round 9 and the Lions in Round 21) and a trip to Tasmania to face Hawthorn, adding to the club's already significant travel burden which is slightly eased by no trips to Sydney. The Eagles also been scheduled to play the Cats in Geelong in Round 16, one of the club’s four Friday night games during the season. The Eagles will host Essendon on a Thursday night in Round 13 after another of their pleas to the AFL fell on deaf ears. They will double up against three out of four 2019 preliminary finalists: premiers Richmond, Collingwood and Geelong, as well as Fremantle and Port Adelaide.
The Western Bulldogs appear to be the big winners in 2020, drawn to meet only one 2019 finalist (GWS) twice. Their other double up games are against Port Adelaide, North Melbourne, Fremantle and Carlton. The Dogs will play two home games in Ballarat: Gold Coast in Round 8 and Port Adelaide in Round 22. They get five Friday night games including the opening round clash against Collingwood. Unlike the previous couple of seasons, the Dogs’ games at Marvel Stadium will be more evenly spread during 2020, although the club will play at the venue four times in the first five rounds. They will play outside Victoria five times next year, including two trips each to Adelaide and Sydney.
Sources: Herald Sun, The Age, AAP, club websites
Article last changed on Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - 3:56 PM EST