The 2022 AFL schedule was announced in early December, exactly 100 days from the start of the regular season. While the venues had been set, the League has only confirmed the dates and times for the first nine rounds. The schedule for Round 10 through to 23 will be progressively revealed with advance notice.
The regular season kicks off on Wednesday, 16th March with the rematch of the 2021 Grand Final between Melbourne and Western Bulldogs at the MCG, where the Demons will unfurl their premiership flag. It will be the first time since 2000 that the season begins on a Wednesday. The Demons have requested their game against the Bulldogs to open the season as a reward for fans of both clubs in Victoria, who had not been able to travel to Perth to watch the Premiership decider due to Western Australia’s hard border closure to Victoria, after the latter was hit by an outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in mid 2021.
All 10 Victorian-based teams will play against each other in Round 1 as part of the Victorian State Government’s 10-day Footy Fest which also includes the entire final round of AFLW regular season in the state (see separate report). Traditional rivals Richmond and Carlton, which had opened the past seven AFL seasons, will play the second game of the season on Thursday, 17th March, followed by St Kilda against Collingwood at Marvel Stadium on the Friday night, Geelong against Essendon at the MCG on the Saturday afternoon, and Hawthorn take on North Melbourne at the same venue on the Sunday afternoon. Round 1 will also feature the Sydney Derby at Stadium Australia on the Saturday, the first AFL game at the venue since the 2016 qualifying final also between the Swans and the Giants. The Giants-Swans encounter will be the first chance for Swans forward Lance Franklin to become the sixth player in VFL/AFL history to reach the 1000th goal milestone. If not against the Giants, Franklin could do it at home in Round 2, with Sydney hosting Geelong on Friday night.
A new feature of the 2022 season is Friday night doubleheaders which will happen twice in the first nine rounds. In Round 3, Essendon will take on Melbourne at the MCG on 1st April, one hour before the first Friday night showdown in Adelaide between the Crows and the Power. This opens up the late afternoon timeslot on Saturday, 2nd April, for the AFLW Grand Final. In Round 8 Port Adelaide will take on Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval before Fremantle tackle North Melbourne in Perth, both on 6th May. The last time two overlapping games were played on a Friday night was in Round 4, 2001, when Collingwood played Richmond at the MCG, and Sydney hosted Essendon at the SCG.
Tasmania will host its first games of the season during the Round 6 Anzac Appeal Round, with North Melbourne hosting Geelong in Hobart on Sunday, April 24, before Hawthorn and Sydney meet on Anzac Day in Launceston. In all, Hawthorn and North Melbourne will each play four home games in Tasmania next year, including the first ever meeting between the two clubs in Hobart in Round 19. After having no games this year due to COVID travel restrictions, Northern Territory will host three games next year: Gold Coast will play back-to-back games at TIO Stadium in Darwin against Hawthorn and North Melbourne during Rounds 11 and 12 respectively, before Melbourne host Port Adelaide at TIO Traeger Park in Alice Springs during Round 18.
There will be five Thursday night games to start the season and then likely a few more later in June and July, although the total number of Thursday night games is still restricted by a limit on the number of five-day breaks each club can have in one season, as stipulated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the AFL and AFL Players Association. Fremantle, Hawthorn and Gold Coast - who all missed the finals this year - are the only clubs not playing Thursday and Friday games during the opening six rounds of 2022.
Other highlights in the fixture include the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round to occur over Rounds 10-11, with the Dreamtime at the G match to return to the MCG after a two year break, and the Sydney Swans to host the Marn Grook game against Richmond in Round 11.
AFL Executive General Manager of Clubs and Broadcasting, Travis Auld, said it was building towards an “unpredictable” season with fans set to return to 100 per cent capacity at venues around the country, with COVID restrictions continue to ease. He said: “We begin season 2022 with a renewed level of confidence – taking the learnings of the previous year and focusing on delivering fans another blockbuster schedule of matches…For supporters it is a chance to get back to doing what we all love, going to the footy with our family and friends.” In regards to Friday night doubleheaders, Auld said: "It's a trial to see how it performs and I'm sure we'll learn like we have over the last couple of years how that new concept performs and respond accordingly…You'd love every game to have clean air ... but what you do is try and get that overlap right and so there's not such a big impact.”
Here are the club-by-club summaries for the 2022 season.
The Crows will play back-to-back home games in Rounds 9-10 and consecutive away games in Rounds 14-15. They have a relatively easy run home: in the last eight rounds they will play three finalists from 2021 (including premiers Melbourne) and with five games at Adelaide Oval. Just one trip each to Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. The Power is the only finalist from this year the Crows will play twice in 2022, the other teams are Collingwood, North Melbourne, Carlton and West Coast.
Brisbane have the eighth-hardest fixture in terms of double-ups, as they only play one top six team (Melbourne) twice, and just one trip to SA, WA, ACT and NSW respectively. The Lions will host Collingwood on Easter Thursday, plus Essendon, Carlton and Melbourne at home, which will attract big crowds. Will only play five games in Victoria (two at the MCG), including just one before Round 15, which will not please fans of the old Fitzroy club. After the bye the Lions will play four straight games against 2021 finalists, and twice against the Demons.
Playing twice: Gold Coast, St Kilda, Melbourne, GWS, Essendon
Michael Voss’s first season as Carlton coach goes off to a tough start, with five Sunday games in the first nine rounds. Overall, they have the easiest schedule of all 18 clubs, with their first three games in Melbourne, then leaving Victoria only once between Round 11 and Round 19. The Blues will play six home games at Marvel Stadium and five home games at the MCG, and travel twice to QLD and WA respectively.
Playing twice: Richmond, Collingwood, Adelaide, Fremantle, GWS (which beat Carlton in nine of the past ten games)
Even though Collingwood finished second last on the ladder this year, they will still be able to play two Friday nights, a Thursday night, Anzac Day and a big Saturday night clash with the Cats in the first nine rounds of 2022, demonstrating the club's crowd appeal. The Pies, with Craig McRae as new senior coach, have an easy schedule with one trip outside of Victoria in the first nine rounds and another five weeks at home after that, and only have just one trip to SA, WA and NSW. They have a difficult schedule in the last five weeks with four games against 2021 finalists. The Pies will play 14 games at the MCG, nine of which are designated home games.
Playing twice: Adelaide, Essendon, Carlton, Gold Coast, Melbourne
Essendon have the second-hardest schedule, with their opening three games against 2021 finalists Geelong, Brisbane and Melbourne. Overall the Bombers will play two games against three teams that finished in the top six this year. However, they get to stay in Melbourne in the first eight rounds. Their clash against Carlton in Round 13 at the MCG will celebrate the club’s 150th anniversary (Essendon’s first recorded game was against Carlton reserves on 7th June 1873). They will play seven home games at Marvel Stadium and four at the MCG.
Playing twice: Collingwood, Brisbane, Sydney, Richmond, Port Adelaide
Three of Fremantle’s first four home games will be held in primetine, including their first Friday night game in six years, against North Melbourne in Round 8. The Saturday night Carlton clash will be played as the Len Hall Tribute Game on April 23. The Dockers will travel only once each to SA, QLD and ACT and avoid trips to Tasmania. They will play six times in Victoria – in fact, after their midseason bye, they will play alternating games at Marvel Stadium and Optus Stadium between Round 15 and Round 22. Their run to end the season is rough, with five games against 2021 finalists.
Playing twice: Carlton, St Kilda, West Coast, GWS, Melbourne
Geelong will play nine home games at GMHBA Stadium, including clashes against this year’s preliminary finalists Melbourne, Port Adelaide and Western Bulldogs, and back-to-back home games against SA teams in Rounds 10 and 11. The Cats finish with three of the final four and five of the final eight at their fortress. They will play once in every state or territory during the season, except Northern Territory.
Playing twice: North Melbourne, St Kilda, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, West Coast
Gold Coast will play nine home games at Metricon Stadium and two home games in Darwin (against Hawthorn and North Melbourne), after being unable to play there in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Suns will host premiers Melbourne in Round 2, plus Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond and Geelong during the season. After the Round 13 bye, the Suns will play three of their next four games at Metricon Stadium. They will only play once at the MCG as part of their five visits to Victoria and will travel to NSW twice.
Playing twice: Brisbane, Collingwood, West Coast, Hawthorn, North Melbourne
Apart from their season opener against the Swans at Stadium Australia, GWS will play six home games at Sydney Showground (Giants Stadium) and four home games in Canberra, against St Kilda, Geelong, Fremantle and Brisbane. The Giants successfully requested to the AFL to play a game at Giants Stadium (against the Suns) before the venue is required to host the annual Royal Sydney Easter Show. They will travel to SA twice plus single trips to WA and QLD.
Playing twice: Carlton, Fremantle, Sydney, Western Bulldogs, Brisbane
Sam Mitchell will make his debut as senior coach in Round 1 against 2021 wooden spooners North Melbourne, one of Hawthorn’s four home games at the MCG in the first nine rounds, with trips to Adelaide and Tasmania in between. The Hawks will play five times in Tasmania, including the Round 19 game against North Melbourne in Hobart, and four home games in Launceston against Sydney on Anzac Day, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Bulldogs to close out the season. The Hawks won’t have to travel to NSW or QLD, but will have single trips to Darwin, Adelaide and Perth.
Playing twice: Western Bulldogs, St Kilda, North Melbourne, Richmond, Gold Coast
The reigning premiers play six games at the MCG in the first nine rounds, including a Round 6 Sunday night Anzac Eve clash against 2019-20 Premiers Richmond. Apart from the Alice Springs clash against Port Adelaide, Melbourne will hit the road on six occasions, including games in Perth, Queensland and Adelaide. After the Round 14 bye, the Demons face a tough run home, with games against four finalists plus away clashes against Adelaide, Geelong and Fremantle.
Playing twice: Western Bulldogs, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Fremantle, Collingwood
The 2021 wooden spooners have a tough schedule in the first nine rounds, with games against five of 2021 finalists. However, the Kangaroos get to play 13 games in Victoria, including six in the last eight rounds. They will play 10 games at Marvel Stadium, seven of them as home games, including the Good Friday game against the Bulldogs. They also have four home games at Hobart’s Blundstone Arena.
Playing twice: Adelaide, Hawthorn, Sydney, Geelong, Gold Coast
The 2021 preliminary finalist starts its season against the Lions in Brisbane, followed by three straight games at Adelaide Oval. Port will use their home game against Hawthorn in Round 2 to honor club legend Russell Ebert, who died from leukemia in November at 72. Port will travel to Perth once, twice to Queensland, once to Hobart and six times to Victoria. They will face three finalists from this year in the final six rounds.
Playing twice: Adelaide, Richmond, Essendon, Geelong, Melbourne
After claiming three premierships in four years and missing out on the finals this year, in 2022 Richmond have been shunted from primetime exposure in the first nine rounds of the season, with only one Thursday night game (against Carlton) and one Friday night game (against West Coast). The Tigers will play 14 games at the MCG, including hosting Essendon in the first Dreamtime game in Melbourne since 2019, and early season blockbusters against grand finalists Bulldogs and Melbourne. They have a difficult schedule in the final month of the season, against Hawthorn and 2021 finalists Brisbane, Port Adelaide and Essendon.
Playing twice: Carlton, Port Adelaide, Essendon, Hawthorn, West Coast
St Kilda has a relatively easy schedule in the first nine rounds, facing five teams missed this year’s finals, before playing four finalists in a row. The Saints will play a total of 12 matches at Marvel Stadium in 2022 – seven of which will come after the bye in Round 12 – and will travel interstate seven times, including for its home game against Port Adelaide in Cairns in Round 7, and trips to Perth (twice), Canberra, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane.
Playing twice: Fremantle, Hawthorn, Geelong, Brisbane, Sydney
The Swans open their season with two games in Sydney, giving local fans two chances to see Lance Franklin kicking his 1000th goal. They will play on Good Friday for the first time, with an away game against the Eagles in Perth. The Swans will play six games in Melbourne, twice in Perth, and once in Tasmania and Adelaide. They have a relatively easy schedule in the final five rounds, playing only one finalist (GWS).
Playing twice: GWS, Essendon, Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, St Kilda
West Coast have a relatively easy start to their 2022 campaign, with games against Gold Coast, North Melbourne, Fremantle and Collingwood in the first four rounds, The Eagles will play 2021 grand finalists Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, as well as Richmond, Sydney, Geelong and Essendon at home. They will have five games in Victoria, plus trips to Sydney, Adelaide (twice) and QLD (twice). Their Round 23 away game against the Cats could decide their finals destiny.
Playing twice: Fremantle, Richmomd, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Geelong
The 2021 grand finalist is the early winner of the schedule, playing six of their first nine matches in front of national television audiences on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday nights. The Bulldogs only have to travel once in the first ten rounds, but face a tricky run home after their Round 13 bye, including games against four 2021 finalists between Round 16 and 20. They will play two home games in Ballarat, against Adelaide in Round 6 and Gold Coast in Round 10, with the rest at Marvel Stadium. They will travel to Adelaide, Perth, Sydney (twice), Brisbane and Tasmania during the season.
Playing twice: Sydney, Melbourne, Geelong, GWS, Hawthorn
Sources: afl.com.au, foxsports.com.au, aap.com.au, club websites
Article last changed on Sunday, December 12, 2021 - 7:15 AM EST