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Pros and cons: Our verdict on your club's 2019 fixture

The 2019 fixture revealed Nat Edwards and Travis Auld discuss all the big talking points from the 2019 AFL Fixture

PROS: The Crows can just about chalk up four certain victories by playing bottom-four sides Gold Coast and St Kilda twice. Don't have to play Collingwood, Richmond and Essendon at the MCG, with each of those games at Adelaide Oval. Have five games on either Thursday or Friday night, a solid result given they finished 12th last season.

CONS: They have a tough first three games in the space of 12 days against top-eight sides Hawthorn, Sydney and Geelong. Couldn't ask for a much harder game off their five-day break, hosting 2017 premier Richmond. Face reigning premier West Coast twice, including back-to-back games with the Eagles and fellow grand finalists Collingwood in rounds 21-22.

PLAY TWICE: Geelong, Gold Coast, Port Adelaide, St Kilda, West Coast

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Hawthorn (h), Sydney (a), Geelong (h), North Melbourne (a)

MAKE OR BREAK: The stretch of six games from rounds 10-16 will define the Crows' season – West Coast (home), Melbourne in Darwin, Greater Western Sydney (home), Richmond off a five-day break, away to Geelong and the second Showdown of the season against Port Adelaide.

'ELLO GOV'NOR: The Crows have to wait until the round 19 clash with Carlton before they face forward Mitch McGovern for the first time since he departed at the end of the 2018 season.

WE SAY: The Crows have a tough opening, a tricky middle and a difficult end to 2019. With that said, there's enough opportunities for them to gain momentum providing they can successfully navigate the difficult periods. They don't face any top-eight sides between rounds four to nine, nor in rounds 16-20. Consecutive six-day breaks to open the season isn't ideal, nor is taking on 2017 premiers Richmond off the back of a five-day break in round 13. But the flipside is hosting big-drawing Victorian clubs Collingwood, Richmond and Essendon, along with Hawthorn, Geelong and reigning premier West Coast. Only playing two top-eight sides twice makes this a win. - Lee Gaskin

FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game

PROS: After just one national free-to-air game last season, getting three in 2019 is a big win for the club, and particularly its sponsors. The Lions have eight games at home on Saturdays – when they draw their strongest crowds – and playing just one finalist from last season twice gives them a sporting chance to climb the ladder.

CONS: It's hard to complain when you've been in the bottom four for four straight years, but they would have loved more home matches against the big Victorian clubs. There was also hopes of hosting a Friday night game, but the Lions will have to be satisfied with its one Thursday night offering against Collingwood.

PLAY TWICE: Gold Coast, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: West Coast (h), North Melbourne (a), Port Adelaide (h), Essendon (a)

MAKE OR BREAK: Aside from the opening rounds, which shape every club's season, either side of the bye looms as crucial. From round 10 on the Lions play Fremantle, Hawthorn, Carlton and St Kilda and have a chance to gain real momentum through that stretch.

BEAMS IN BRISBANE: Former skipper Dayne Beams returns to the Gabba in round five when the Lions host Collingwood on Easter Thursday.

WE SAY: On the whole it's a good draw. The opening six rounds give the Lions a chance to measure their progress against both 2018 Grand Finalists and also notch wins against teams they figure to finish near on the ladder. The majority of home games on Saturdays and six games in Melbourne – including two rare visits to the MCG – are also pluses. Perhaps most importantly, four of the five teams they double up against missed the top eight last season. There's no reason for the Lions to not climb the ladder in 2019. - Michael Whiting

Prodigal Pie Dayne Beams will be in black and white when he faces the Lions in round five. Picture: AFL Photos

PROS: The Blues will host the round one MCG clash with Richmond, they've got a neat split between Marvel Stadium (eight games) and the MCG (seven), and they won't leave Victoria after round 17. The upside of their only Thursday night game being in round one, and no games on Fridays, mean they have six and seven-day breaks all season. 

CONS: They've been banished from Friday nights with all their games – bar round one – to fall on Saturday or Sunday. They'll appear on free-to-air television to a Victorian audience seven times, compared to Collingwood's 12, and have a horrid patch of travel when they'll hit the road four times between round two and nine. They also finish their season in Geelong, which could be considered a downer for fans.

PLAY TWICE: Gold Coast, Richmond, St Kilda, Sydney, Western Bulldogs

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Richmond (home), Port Adelaide (away), Sydney (home), Gold Coast (away)

MAKE OR BREAK: The Blues have a rough start with four matches outside of Victoria and five in against 2018 finalists before their bye, plus clashes with North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and Essendon. If they can make it to the break with 3-4 wins, they'll be doing well.   

EARNING BACK RESPECT: Will be the theme for the Blues after being overlooked for blockbuster timeslots including Friday nights and Easter Thursday, with their season consisting of 'family-friendly' scheduling.

WE SAY: The Blues have been banished from the big-game timeslots and rightly so given they finished on the bottom of the ladder with just two wins in 2018 after appearing on Friday night four times. But, while the fixture looks bleak when you consider they've been largely booted out of prime-time, it could also be interpreted to be littered with opportunity. They play only two 2018 finalists – Richmond and Sydney – twice, and they have comfortable six and seven-day breaks all year to rest between games. As marketed by them, it's a family-friendly draw for their supporters with all but two games landing on Saturday or Sunday afternoon/twilight. - Jennifer Phelan

FREE-TO-AIR BONANZA Footy galore in Easter-Anzac period

PROS: Plenty of excitement on offer for the prime-time Pies with 14 games at the MCG, where they play their first four games, and a massive increase in Thursday and Friday night timeslots. They will also be grateful for not being scheduled any five-day breaks.

CONS: The premiership hopeful faces return games against each of its fellow top-four teams from 2018. They also face successive road trips to play West Coast and Greater Western Sydney in rounds 17 and 18, and on two occasions will need to negotiate successive six-day breaks – leading into round four (Western Bulldogs) and five (Brisbane), and into round 15 (North Melbourne) and 16 (Hawthorn).

PLAY TWICE: Essendon, Melbourne, Richmond, West Coast, Western Bulldogs

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Geelong (h), Richmond (a), West Coast (h), Western Bulldogs (h)

MAKE OR BREAK: A particularly difficult four-week stretch awaits the Pies from round 16-19 when they face Hawthorn at the MCG, before going on the road to take on West Coast and Greater Western Sydney, and then returning to the MCG to confront Richmond.

HARD START: The Pies won't have the luxury of easing into the season given they play 2018 finalists in the opening three rounds.

WE SAY: Just as the Pies anticipated, with an inevitably tougher draw given they finished runner-up this year but also a significant increase in showpiece games. The Magpies will play three Thursday night games in the opening six rounds, including an Easter Thursday game against Brisbane at the Gabba – and seven Friday night fixtures. Nathan Buckley’s men have 14 games at the MCG, and will host nine of them. They will at last host the Queen’s Birthday clash with Melbourne after handing that privilege, and a considerable financial boost, to the Demons for the past 19 years. Once again the Woods travel interstate five times and play three games at Marvel Stadium, including two home clashes. - Ben Collins

Grand Finalists Collingwood and West Coast will play each other twice in 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

PROS: The Bombers gain a third marquee game as North Melbourne's opponent on Good Friday, and by virtue of their expected rise up the ladder they have been returned to prime-time with a slew of Thursday and Friday night games. They have six road trips, which are generally well spread.

CONS: Dons coach John Worsfold will need to have his team hardened for a challenging opening with six-day breaks leading into rounds two (St Kilda), three (Melbourne) and five (North Melbourne), along with the round six Anzac Day blockbuster against Collingwood, with the Pies to have an extra day's break. They then have a five-day break before their round eight clash with Sydney at the SCG.

PLAY TWICE: Collingwood, Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, North Melbourne, Sydney

BYE: Round 12

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Greater Western Sydney (a), St Kilda (h), Melbourne (a), Brisbane (h)

MAKE OR BREAK: If the Dons are to be a force next year it seems they will need to capitalise on a chance to build momentum from round 19 to 22 with games against Gold Coast (away), Port Adelaide (home), Western Bulldogs (home) and Fremantle (away).

NO SHIELDING SHIEL: Essendon's boom recruit Dylan Shiel will face his Giants mates in round one.

WE SAY: All roads point to a big season for the Bombers and this is reflected in the AFL's decision to schedule them in three Thursday night games and five on Fridays. The Dons have happily received another big game in the form of the Good Friday game in round five to go with Anzac Day against Collingwood in round six, the Country Game against Geelong in round seven and the Dreamtime at the 'G against Richmond in round 10. Their bottom line will be boosted by home games at the MCG against Collingwood and Carlton and another at Marvel Stadium against Hawthorn after their mid-season bye. - Ben Collins

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PROS: The Dockers wanted fewer Sunday afternoon games at Optus Stadium and had a win there, with five in 2019 compared to seven this year. Freo's fixture also gives the club a chance to make a strong start to the campaign. Although hosting North in their season-opener won't be easy, it is winnable, and the Dockers will back themselves against the Suns and St Kilda before the round four Western Derby. Only leaving Perth once in the opening month is a positive.

CONS: Fremantle's first three home games aren't exactly blockbusters, with low-drawing Victorian clubs North Melbourne, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs coming to town, and the Dockers missed out on hosting the first Derby. The Dockers might also have hoped for 'easier' double-up fixtures after finishing bottom six, but didn't get struggling Gold Coast or wooden spoon winner Carlton twice next year. Six six-day breaks isn't ideal, but at least none are back-to-back. Freo is also one of only three clubs without a Thursday or Friday night fixture.

PLAY TWICE: Essendon, Port Adelaide, St Kilda, West Coast, Western Bulldogs

BYE: Round 12

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: North Melbourne (h), Gold Coast (a), St Kilda (h), West Coast (a)

MAKE OR BREAK: A tough stretch before the bye could define Fremantle's season. If the Dockers are going to be realistic finals contenders they will need a few wins from a five-game block against Adelaide (a), Richmond, Essendon (a), Brisbane and Collingwood (a) between round seven to 11.

LOOK WHO'S BACK: Two-time Doig medallist Lachie Neale will be ready for a hostile reception when he returns to Optus Stadium in Brisbane colours in round 10.

WE SAY: The Dockers' fixture is a mixed bag. The club is pleased to have a more balanced spread of Saturday and Sunday games, and the four Saturday night games under lights at Optus Stadium – against the Dogs in the annual Len Hall Tribute Game in round six, plus Swans, Eagles and Bombers – should attract strong crowds. However, Ross Lyon's men will need to improve significantly on the road to be a top-eight challenger. The Dockers, who went 1-8 interstate this year, take on expected top eight contenders GWS, Adelaide, Essendon, Collingwood, Melbourne and Hawthorn in Tasmania in a daunting stretch of away games from round five onwards. - Travis King

WHO MAKES FINALS? Do the 2019 Ladder Predictor

PROS: Geelong has nine home games at GMHBA Stadium, the same number as last year. The Cats will start their season against Collingwood under lights at the MCG, before a massive clash against Melbourne at their home at Kardinia Park the following Saturday. The Cats also have just one trip to Perth, where they take on Fremantle in round 20.

CONS: The Cats' opening games have strong commercial benefits but with that comes clashes against two of last year's preliminary finalists – Collingwood and Melbourne. Games against Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney, Hawthorn and West Coast following the first two makes for a difficult first six weeks of the season.

PLAY TWICE: Adelaide, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Sydney, Western Bulldogs

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Collingwood (a), Melbourne (h), Adelaide (a), Greater Western Sydney (h)

MAKE OR BREAK: As mentioned, Geelong's first six weeks against five of the six finalists from last season make for an incredibly tough opening to the season. The Cats have traditionally struggled following their bye and a meeting with Port Adelaide in Adelaide following the round 13 break looms as a challenging trip.

ONE TRIP WEST FOR KELLY'S GANG: Tim Kelly will face West Coast – the team he requested a trade to – once at GMHBA Stadium before a trip to play Fremantle in Perth in round 20.

WE SAY: Geelong was granted its wish of nine home games at GMHBA and history has proven playing at the venue is a distinct advantage for the Cats. Their games at Kardinia Park are not easy though, with Melbourne, Greater Western Sydney, West Coast, Western Bulldogs, Sydney and Adelaide among the tough assignments. The Cats' first six weeks are as tough as any in the competition and how they fare across that stretch could be decisive for their season. - Ben Guthrie

The Cats prevailed in a thriller against the Demons at GMHBA Stadium in 2018. Picture: AFL Photos 

PROS: The first six rounds could not be more friendly – the Suns don't play a 2018 finalist in that stretch. After the Commonwealth Games robbed them of Metricon Stadium for the first half of last season, Suns fans have been given plenty of family-friendly afternoon and twilight timeslots to watch their team. Hosting powerhouses Carlton and Richmond during Victorian school holidays should bolster crowds significantly.

CONS: Hard to argue with much, although after years of barely setting foot on the MCG, one match – against Collingwood in round 18 – is a little light-on. Watch for some raised eyebrows ahead of the round six QClash against Brisbane following Gold Coast's six-day turnaround compared to their rival's nine days.

PLAY TWICE: Adelaide, Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Greater Western Sydney, St Kilda

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: St Kilda (a), Fremantle (h), Western Bulldogs (a), Carlton (h).

MAKE OR BREAK: Rounds one to four. In what shapes as another rough season, playing four of the bottom six teams from 2018 in the opening month is a generous chance to sneak some early wins. If not, sound the alarm bells.

EX-CAPTAINS RETURN TO METRICON: Both Steven May and Tom Lynch – co-captains in 2018 – will face Suns fans at Carrara. May and his Melbourne outfit head north in round eight, while Lynch and the Tigers visit in round 16. Oh, and former skipper Gary Ablett will be back in round 10 with the Cats.

WE SAY: This is as good as you could hope for. Plenty of chances to win in the first six weeks, friendly timeslots at home, no successive weekends out of Queensland and no stretch of longer than two matches facing finalists from last season. Don't expect many wins, but the Suns have been given every chance with this fixture. - Michael Whiting

PROS: The Giants got their wish for home daytime/twilight fixtures apart from a Friday night clash with Hawthorn in round 21, so that makes for some encouraging crowd numbers in Sydney, especially in games against big clubs Essendon, Richmond and Collingwood. Only four six-day breaks during the season is also a major plus, while three games at the MCG will also give the team more experience at the venue.

CONS: Playing Richmond, Essendon and Hawthorn twice is a tough task, along with the Swans, and that bunch of eight games could determine their finals chances. Two trips to Adelaide oval is always hard, while they only get only one Thursday night and one Friday night game.

PLAY TWICE: Essendon, Gold Coast, Hawthorn, Richmond, Sydney

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Essendon (h), West Coast (a), Richmond (h), Geelong (a)

MAKE OR BREAK: The first four games of the season are all massive tests with the Giants facing Essendon, the last two premiers in West Coast and Richmond, and Geelong at the Cattery.

THE RETURN OF THE SHIEL SHOW: How will original Giant Dylan Shiel handle the heat when his new club Essendon opens the season against the Giants at his former home ground?

WE SAY: The Giants will have their finals credentials tested early against fellow contenders Essendon, premier West Coast at Optus Stadium, then games against the Tigers and the Cats. That first month will show where the club is at. GWS play three games in a row on the road from rounds 12-15 but the round 14 bye at least breaks that up, while it has three home fixtures – one in Canberra - in rounds 20-22 against Sydney, Hawthorn and the Dogs, before finishing the year against the Suns, which looks a decent run into the finals if the Giants are in the running. - Adam Curley

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PROS: The commercial team at the Hawks will be pleased that at least 12 games are on free-to-air TV. Geelong and Collingwood will help draw large crowds to the MCG for home games. There are only five six-day breaks over the course of the season for what is still one of the older lists in the competition. Despite a top-six finish they have avoided double-up games against Richmond, Collingwood and Melbourne.

CONS: Finishing the season at Optus Stadium against West Coast will be a tough outing for the Hawks if they need a win in round 23 to secure a double chance, home final or even to make the finals. The Hawks also play eight Sunday games. For the first time since 2008, the Hawks and the Swans will only meet once. The Hawks were entitled to think that they had earned a Thursday night game, although five Friday nights is not too bad.

PLAY TWICE: Brisbane, Geelong, Greater Western Sydney, North Melbourne, West Coast

BYE: Round 12

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Adelaide (a), Western Bulldogs (h), North Melbourne (h), St Kilda (a)

MAKE OR BREAK: Hawthorn's first four games are all against teams that didn't make the finals this year. Win three or even all four of those and the Hawks could be on their way for 2019.  

REVENGE OF THE CHAD: It's a bit off-Broadway, this one, with the only Hawks-Port game taking place on a Saturday afternoon in Tasmania in round 10. It means Chad Wingard won't get to play against his former club at Adelaide Oval.

WE SAY: A few of the same old bug-bears for the Hawks, with just nine MCG games – six of them as the home team – and a round 22 Sunday twilight home game at Marvel Stadium against Gold Coast. Good luck attracting a crowd to that one. The Hawks were generally snubbed on Friday nights last season but appear in the prized slot five times in 2019. One of them is away to Essendon at Marvel, which seems odd given the MCG games in 2017 and 2018 attracted 78,000, 53,000 and nearly 69,000. The Friday night home game against Collingwood in round 16 comes 50 years after club legend Leigh Matthews made his debut for the Hawks and opens the possibility of a celebration of his career against another club he served with distinction. - Ashley Browne

The Hawks' only meeting with Port Adelaide will come in Launceston. Picture: AFL Photos 

PROS: Melbourne will feature three times on Friday night and once on Thursday night after the AFL identified the rising club as one to reward based on its performance in 2018. The Demons will also have their now traditional clash against Richmond on Anzac Day Eve, which provides the club with a major opportunity to promote its brand.

CONS: Playing on the Anzac Day Eve Wednesday means the Demons will have just three clear days to prepare for the match after their Saturday twilight clash against St Kilda in round three. Melbourne will also have a brutal six-day break between trips to Gold Coast and Perth in rounds eight and nine. 

PLAY TWICE: Collingwood, Richmond, Sydney, St Kilda, West Coast

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Port Adelaide (h), Geelong (a), Essendon (h), Sydney (a)

MAKE OR BREAK: Similar to last season, the Demons' run into finals again shapes as challenging and could prove to be vital in their September hopes. The Demons have games against Richmond, Collingwood, Sydney and North Melbourne to close out the season.

JESSE'S BACK IN TOWN: New Docker Jesse Hogan will return to the MCG to face off against the Demons in round 14.

WE SAY: It's pleasing to see Melbourne, which has in recent times been hidden away in unfriendly timeslots, rewarded for its improvement in 2018. The Demons play an exciting and tough brand of football and fans around Australia will have the chance to witness the club's increasing development in prime-time slots. The Demons also have 12 matches at the MCG, including nine home games at the venue – an important factor in their chances of making the finals for the second successive year. - Ben Guthrie

PROS: The fixture is a great result financially for North. After one Friday night game last year, North has been rewarded with four in 2019. Three of those are home matches as well, and against big clubs in Essendon, Richmond and Hawthorn. It has five more games on free-to-air television compared to this year, taking the total to 11.

CONS: Travelling to face Brisbane in round 18 and then getting on the plane again the following week to come up against reigning premier West Coast is brutal. Then straight after that, there's a six-day break before hosting the Hawks. Kangaroos supporters won't have the chance to boo Andrew Gaff after he spurned them to stay at West Coast – the sides meet only once.

PLAY TWICE: Brisbane, Essendon, Geelong, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Fremantle (a), Brisbane (h), Hawthorn (a), Adelaide (h)

MAKE OR BREAK: Consecutive six-day breaks are always difficult to deal with, but the task will be made even harder between rounds three and five when the Roos come up against Hawthorn, Adelaide and Essendon. The Hawks made finals last year while the Crows and Bombers are expected to improve and contend for top-eight spots.

WHEN WILL THE PORT ADELAIDE RECRUITS BE BOOED? Jared Polec and Jasper Pittard will have their chance to front up against their former side and feel the wrath of Power fans in round six under the Friday night spotlight.

WE SAY: The football staff will likely have a different outlook to those looking after the finances. There's money to be made but if North make the top eight, there will be no doubt about its credentials. Doubling up against finalists Hawthorn and Geelong won't be easy, and Essendon and Port Adelaide could easily climb up the ladder. Even Brisbane looms as a challenge to face twice, after its improvement last season. Receiving more exposure on Friday nights is a big win for the Kangaroos as a smaller club, and having Essendon as its Good Friday opponent will help take that match to the next level. - Dinny Navaratnam

North Melbourne should expect a bumper Good Friday crowd against Essendon. Picture: AFL Photos

PROS: Only playing one top-eight side twice (2017 premiers Richmond). Three successive Friday night games from rounds six to eight. No five-day break during the season. Pushing the China game back to round 11 to have their bye in line with the rest of the competition. Hosting former players Jared Polec and Jasper Pittard in their Anzac Round game against North Melbourne in round six.

CONS: Two trips to Perth, on top of their visit to China. Playing Hawthorn at fortress Launceston again. Not playing in Adelaide between rounds 10-13, with games in Launceston, Shanghai, a bye, then Perth before returning to Adelaide Oval to host Geelong in round 14. Facing reigning premier West Coast in round five off a six-day break in Perth.

PLAY TWICE: Adelaide, Brisbane, Fremantle, North Melbourne, Richmond

BYE: Round 12

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Melbourne (a), Carlton (h), Brisbane (a), Richmond (h)

MAKE OR BREAK: The Power folded late last season, losing six of their last seven games, and won't want that to happen again. Three of their final six games are against top-eight sides – Richmond, Greater Western Sydney and Sydney – while they also face Essendon, who should be one of the big improvers next year, in the run home.

THE APPLE OF CHAD'S EYE: Power supporters will have to travel to the Apple Isle if they want to heckle former star Chad Wingard. The round 10 encounter with Hawthorn in Tasmania is the only time the two clubs meet in 2019.

WE SAY: Only facing one top-eight side – 2017 premiers Richmond – and not having any five-day breaks is a win for the Power. That said, there's enough potholes to cause their finals aspirations to come unstuck. The Power's draw from rounds four to eight is tricky, followed by a month on the road from rounds 10-13. Their run home is difficult, with Richmond and Essendon away, and Greater Western Sydney and Sydney at home. If the Power want to prove they're a top-eight side, those are the types of games they need to win and turn Adelaide Oval into a fortress again. - Lee Gaskin

FIXTURE ASTERISK Round nine swap on the cards

PROS: A balance of prime-time and family-friendly timeslots with 11 matches under lights, seven during the day and three twilight with round 23 TBA. With the exception of the four-day break they cop to play on Anzac Day Eve, they have decent gaps between games with no five-day breaks and 10 days off after round six. They also play their last seven games at the MCG.

CONS: They didn't want back-to-back travel but will hit the road in rounds three and four when they face the Giants and Power in consecutive weeks. As per the weighted system, they'll face 2018 finalists Collingwood, GWS and Melbourne twice, which they would have expected. They've also been given a home game at Marvel Stadium (round five against Sydney), which they lobbied against. 

PLAY TWICE: Carlton, Collingwood, GWS, Melbourne, Port Adelaide

BYE: Round 14

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Carlton (away), Collingwood (home), Greater Western Sydney (away), Port Adelaide (away) 

MAKE OR BREAK: With not much to complain about venue-wise after the bye, their toughest period looks to be in the first two months with clashes against four 2018 finalists and three interstate trips.

MCG KINGS TO STORM INTO SEPTEMBER: Before losing to Collingwood in the preliminary final, the Tigers had won 22 in a row at the MCG. They again start and end their season at their home ground, and have an enviable streak of seven successive games at the venue to propel them into the finals.  

WE SAY: Pretty good all up, although they'll be dirty they're hosting Sydney at Marvel Stadium again despite specifically asking for all home games to be at the MCG. The back-to-back travel will also annoy, but even that is offset by the fact they don't leave the MCG after round 16. They'll deal with the four-day break to play on Anzac Day Eve with a 10-day gap sweetener on the other side. Their run to the bye could challenge: Richmond faces Hawthorn, Essendon, North and Geelong before a trip to their somewhat-dreaded Adelaide Oval to face the Crows. However, they do play 2018 wooden-spooner Carlton at either end of the season. - Jennifer Phelan

PROS: Melbourne is the only top-eight opponent St Kilda faces twice next year. It has avoided travelling to face West Coast and there is only one Sunday twilight match, as per its request to have earlier matches on Sunday, if it was going to be scheduled then. Interstate trips are relatively well spread out and having no back-to-back six-day breaks will keep the club's fitness staff happy.

CONS: No Thursday or Friday night games makes things difficult for the debt-ridden Saints, although they expected that after their dismal 2018. They face a reasonably tough start, with games against finalists Melbourne and Hawthorn, as well as likely improvers Essendon and Adelaide, in the first six rounds. That's before a three-game run that includes both Grand Finalists.

PLAY TWICE: Adelaide, Carlton, Fremantle, Gold Coast, Melbourne

BYE: Round 12

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Gold Coast (h), Essendon (a), Fremantle (a), Hawthorn (h)

MAKE OR BREAK: There's a brutal stretch between rounds seven and nine, when St Kilda face Greater Western Sydney (Canberra), West Coast (Marvel Stadium) and Collingwood (MCG). The Saints match up reasonably well against the Giants, but their season could collapse if they're not competitive over those games.

DAN'S LONG WAIT: St Kilda doesn't clash with Sydney until the final round of the season, which makes for a very long wait for the Saints' big-name recruit Dan Hannebery to face his former teammates.

WE SAY: It was never going to be a fixture that maximised prime-time exposure after St Kilda had a four-win season. Having said that, the China game will help boost the club's coffers. The football department should be relatively happy. After a couple of years with difficult draws (the Saints played each of the other bottom-four sides just once in 2018) it should be easier for them in 2019, assuming they can improve. Having just five six-day breaks is a decent result, but that's because they didn't have any Thursday or Friday night matches, so whether that's a positive or negative is in the eye of the beholder. - Dinny Navaratnam

The Saints will hope their good recent form against GWS holds up. Picture: AFL Photos

PROS: Six games on a Thursday or Friday night means the Swans will again enjoy plenty of prime-time footy next year, with five of those matches at the SCG, and three against Collingwood, Hawthorn and Essendon. They also got their wish for more daytime/twilight slots at the SCG. Only one trip to Perth and Adelaide is always a plus.

CONS: The Swans face fellow expected finals contenders Melbourne, GWS, Geelong and Essendon twice, so that will help shape their top eight chances. They'll have one five-day break in round four against the Dees, and five more six-day breaks throughout the season.

PLAY TWICE: Carlton, Essendon, Geelong,Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Western Bulldogs (a), Adelaide (h), Carlton (a), Melbourne (h)

MAKE OR BREAK: Games against Essendon, North Melbourne, Collingwood, Geelong and West Coast lead the Swans into the round 13 bye, and those five games will be a huge test despite three of them being at home.

A BUDDY MONSTROUS OCCASION: Can Collingwood come to the SCG in round 10 and upset Lance Franklin's 300th game celebration for Sir Doug Nicholls Round?

WE SAY: The Swans won't be unhappy with their draw and if they're good enough against the sides expected to fight for finals positions around them, they should make it through to another September campaign. The three-game run from rounds 4-6 against Melbourne, Richmond and GWS is a difficult one, but two of those games are at the SCG, where they'll be out to arrest some worrying form in 2018. Three straight away games against GWS, Port and Melbourne, before a home game against the Saints makes it a tough run home. - Adam Curley

PROS: The Eagles are back in prime time next season. They will host Essendon in another Thursday night cracker in round 14, and have three Friday night games at Optus Stadium against Port Adelaide, Melbourne and Collingwood. West Coast's wish for three MCG games has been granted, albeit against quality opposition in Hawthorn, Richmond and the Pies. The Eagles also host the first Western Derby in round four, and have avoided a Tasmanian trip in 2019. Only five six-day breaks is another bonus.

CONS: West Coast would have been bracing for a difficult draw and copping Collingwood, Melbourne, Hawthorn and Adelaide twice, plus the two Western Derbies, will test Adam Simpson's men. A trip to Geelong in round six and away clash with Sydney – which beat the Eagles twice this year – in round 12 won't be easy, while finishing the season against the Crows, Richmond at the MCG and Hawthorn could be decisive in the top-eight race.

PLAY TWICE: Adelaide, Collingwood, Fremantle, Hawthorn, Melbourne

BYE: Round 13

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Brisbane (a), Greater Western Sydney (h), Collingwood (a), Fremantle (h)

MAKE OR BREAK: As you would expect, the reigning premiers' fixture is challenging and the post-bye period looks especially tough. The Eagles will need to be on their game against Essendon at home in round 14, before facing Hawthorn (MCG), Freo, Collingwood (MCG) and Melbourne in Alice Springs.   

HOTTEST TICKET IN TOWN: Every Eagles fan will want to be at Optus Stadium in round two when West Coast unfurls the club's fourth premiership flag against Greater Western Sydney.

WE SAY: The Eagles have been looked after with only five six-day breaks, no five-day breaks and no trips to Canberra or Tasmania, but they will have to do it the hard way to position themselves for back-to-back flag tilts. The start of the season will be tricky, to say the least, and that doesn't even look like the toughest patch of 2019. West Coast deservedly will be back in prime time next year and only has two Sunday afternoon home games after featuring in seven last season. Three trips to the MCG against top-notch opposition couldn't be better preparation for finals, if the Eagles are back in contention next September. - Travis King

PROS: While the Dogs only got one Friday night clash, they were afforded seven Saturday night slots to show their wares. After their Ballarat clash against Port Adelaide in August was marred by freezing conditions and poor lighting, the club's two games in the regional city next season should be played in warmer weather in early May and late August.

CONS: Despite finishing in the bottom six, the Bulldogs only get to play cellar dwellers St Kilda and Gold Coast once, while they face Grand Finalists Collingwood twice. Their finish to the season is also tough, with showdowns against Brisbane (a), Essendon, Greater Western Sydney (a) and Adelaide (h).

PLAY TWICE: Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, Geelong

BYE: Round 12

FIRST FOUR WEEKS: Sydney (h), Hawthorn (a), Gold Coast (h), Collingwood (a)

MAKE OR BREAK: For a club confident about its chances of returning to September action, four matches to end the home and away season against Brisbane, Essendon, Greater Western Sydney and Adelaide could decide whether the Dogs take leave in late August for the third year running.

DOGS PICK UP SCENT EARLY: After a strong finish to 2018, Luke Beveridge's men will be eyeing an opening-round win against the Swans in the first of five games in Melbourne to start the season.

WE SAY: While the club is happy with five straight games in Melbourne to start the season, better scheduling of its Mars Stadium matches and just five interstate trips, the negatives appear to outweigh the positives. More Sunday games (up from seven to 10) aren't ideal for families wanting to attend matches, while the AFL has punished the Dogs for their poor 2018 campaign by stripping them of three Friday night clashes. Despite lobbying hard to return to Good Friday, the League once again snubbed them. And for a side that finished 13th, the Dogs only get to play bottom-four sides six times while fixtured to face top-four outfits five times. – Ryan Davidson