THE AFL has floated with clubs a Sydney-focused split round to begin the 2024 season, which would see both the Giants and the Swans hosting blockbuster standalone fixtures across an earlier weekend of action.
It's understood the proposed round one fixture, which was distributed to clubs last week but is not final, would feature Greater Western Sydney kicking off the 2024 season against Collingwood on a Saturday night before Sydney plays Melbourne on the Sunday afternoon.
Every other club's season-openers would then be played the following weekend and would likely feature Carlton's annual Thursday night clash against Richmond at the MCG.
Both of the earlier games would have a particular relevance, including a rematch of Collingwood's thrilling one-point preliminary final win over GWS and a matchup featuring new Sydney ruckman Brodie Grundy against his former side for the first time.
Under the floated fixture, which was sent to clubs last week and caveated by the fact it was only a draft version, the second weekend would then feature a full complement of games and be headlined by Carlton against Richmond on the Thursday night.
The four teams that played on the earlier weekend – the Giants, Magpies, Swans and Demons – would then have a bye at some point inside the season's first few weeks, enabling the remaining 14 teams to catch up on fixtures.
The proposed fixture would be the first step in new AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon's ongoing plan to grow the game in the northern states, putting the entire weekend's spotlight on blockbuster fixtures in New South Wales.
After meeting with clubs over the last few months, it's understood Dillon wants to have more high-drawing games earlier in the season in the northern states of New South Wales and Queensland.
The League last trialled a split round to begin a season back in 2014, with four games played across an earlier weekend before the remaining five matches were played the following week.