GAMES TO WATCH IN 2024 (Clockwise from left): Damien Hardwick, Matt Owies and Sam Durham, Darcy Moore, Matt Crouch and Connor Rozee. Pictures: AFL Photos

THE COUNTDOWN is nearly over.

The 2024 Toyota AFL Premiership season is now a little more than a week away and there are plenty of matches to look forward to.


Tickets are on sale for club and AFL members now, with general public tickets for Rounds 1-15 on sale from 12pm AEDT today. Full details of on-sale times and how to purchase in your state can be found here.

With new coaches, old rivalries and players switching clubs since the 2023 campaign ended, there are some huge fixtures to come next year.

We take a look at the 24 must-watch games of 2024.


Grundy v Gawn a tasty entree

Opening Round, Thursday March 7, SCG, 7.30pm AEDT. Tickets here

The opening game of a new season is always worth waiting for, but the clash between Sydney and Melbourne will have extra spice in what should be Brodie Grundy's first game for the Swans. After a forgettable and short-lived stint at the Demons, Grundy's debut in red and white is set to be against his former club, making the opening centre bounce of the new season against former ruck partner Max Gawn one to savour.

Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn at Melbourne training in March 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Dimma coaches against Tigers for first time

Opening Round, Saturday March 9, Heritage Bank Stadium, 3.20pm AEST. Tickets here

The Damien Hardwick era at Gold Coast officially kicks off in Opening Round against the club he coached to three premierships. The former Tigers mentor signed a six-year deal at the Suns in August, mere months after his shock decision to quit Richmond. His return to the senior coaching ranks will be fascinating to watch at a club he has described as having 80 per cent of a flag list already in place. To add even more intrigue to the contest, it will be former Hawthorn and Melbourne assistant Adem Yze's first game in charge of the Tigers.

Damien Hardwick speaks to the media at Heritage Bank Stadium on August 21 after joining Gold Coast. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Carlton v Richmond in a Round 1 with a twist

Round 1, Thursday March 14, MCG, 7.30pm AEDT. Tickets here

It's just the second time in 10 seasons that the Blues and Tigers won't kick off the season but that won't make the occasion any less dramatic. A capacity MCG crowd will be on hand to see if Carlton can claim just its second win in a decade in this now-traditional fixture, or whether the Tigers can make a flying start under new coach Adem Yze. 

George Hewett runs with the ball during the R1 match between Carlton and Richmond at the MCG on March 16, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Pies to unfurl premiership flag

Round 1, Friday March 15, MCG, 7.40pm AEDT. Tickets here

Collingwood will unveil its premiership flag ahead of a Friday night blockbuster against Sydney at the MCG, a game that will likely have top-eight ramifications come the end of the season. It will be the first time the two clubs have met since a fiery encounter in round eight last year when the Swans targeted Nick Daicos, so there will be plenty of eyes on how they approach the Pies gun this time. And if that wasn't enough, the clash will also see former Magpies Taylor Adams and Brodie Grundy come up against their old side. 

Jordan De Goey is tackled during the R8 match between Collingwood and Sydney at the MCG on May 7, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Can Dogs put the bite on Dees in season-opener?

Round 1, Sunday March 17, MCG, 1pm AEDT. Tickets here

Dogs coach Luke Beveridge will oversee a host of new assistants as the club seeks to arrest its middling performances of recent seasons. The Dees and Dogs have clashed in round one in the past two years, with Melbourne claiming a resounding win in 2022 amid Beveridge's controversial post-game media conference, and Kozzy Pickett's brutal hit on Bailey Smith in the 2023 clash, sparking days of debate. What's in store next year?


Saints hit primetime stage against Pies

Round 2, Thursday March 21, MCG, 7.30pm AEDT. Tickets here

The Pies will be out to continue their premiership defence while the Saints will have plenty to prove when the two sides meet in round two. After defying expectations and making finals, the Saints have been rewarded for their impressive 2023 with a Thursday night primetime slot, playing a rare home game at the MCG. Pies supporters will no doubt be up and about after last season's glory, while Saints fans will be keen to see how they stack up against the reigning premier.

Jamie Elliott and Dougal Howard during the round five clash between Collingwood and St Kilda at Adelaide Oval on April 16, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Grand Final re-match

Round 3, Thursday March 28, Gabba, 6.30pm AEST. Tickets here

It doesn't get much bigger than the Grand Final re-match. The Lions will no doubt still be hurting after September's decider went down to the wire and keen to exact revenge on the Magpies at their Gabba fortress. Expect sparks to fly in this Easter Thursday heavyweight clash.


Roos v Blues in Good Friday clash

Round 3, Friday March 29, Marvel Stadium, 4.20pm AEDT. Tickets here

The Roos and Blues will clash for a second successive year in the Good Friday game and North Melbourne will be hoping to go four or five goals better than its 23-point loss in this fixture in 2023. Despite North's on-field struggles, the club has pulled out all the stops to make its blockbuster fixture a success, but nothing will inject more life into the occasion than an underdog victory. 

Players from North Melbourne and Carlton run through a joint banner before the R4 match at Marvel Stadium on Good Friday on April 7, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Geelong v Hawthorn on Easter Monday

Round 3, Monday April 1, MCG, 3.20pm AEDT. Tickets here

This is a match-up that never fails to entertain, with eight of the past 11 clashes being decided by four goals or less. The most recent game proved an exception to the rule, with the Cats overcoming a poor start to belt the Hawks by 82 points, and at the same time kickstart their season after heading into the match winless from the opening three rounds. Sam Mitchell's men are clearly a team on the improve, while the Cats will be hell-bent on a return to finals after a disappointing 2023. All signs point to another tasty encounter.

Patrick Dangerfield tackles Jai Newcombe during the R4 match between Geelong and Hawthorn at the MCG on April 10, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Xavier Duursma returns to Adelaide cauldron

Round 4, Friday April 5, Adelaide Oval, 7.40pm ACDT. SOLD OUT

An Adelaide Oval packed with Power supporters is a daunting prospect for any opposition player, let alone one facing his former side for the first time. That's the fate that awaits new Bomber Xavier Duursma when the Dons head to the city of churches for Gather Round. It's the reverse scenario for ex-Bomber Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, who faces his former side in the same fixture. Throw in the burning memory of last year's Dan Houston heroics and this match has all the ingredients to be an absolute belter.

Xavier Duursma marks the ball during the R22 match between Port Adelaide and Essendon at Marvel Stadium on August 14, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Ginni v the Pies

Round 4, Sunday April 7, Adelaide Oval, 4.40pm ACST. Tickets here

Fresh off a premiership with Collingwood, cheeky forward Jack Ginnivan will come up against his old mates for the first time in Hawthorn colours after his highly publicised move in the off-season. There's sure to be plenty of eyeballs on the game, which is set for a Sunday twilight slot during Gather Round in Adelaide. And as if the Ginnivan by-play isn't enough, we could witness another bout of Finn Maginness v Nick Daicos, with the Hawks tagger locking down the Pies gun in an upset round 21 win last year.

Hawthorn recruit Jack Ginnivan. Picture: Hawthorn FC

The Western Derby

Round 6, Saturday April 20, Optus Stadium, 6.10pm AWST. Tickets here

The biggest home and away matches played in WA every year are always highly anticipated and the rebuilding West Coast will be out to atone for an embarrassing performance in its last crosstown clash. Fremantle was unforgiving in its most recent Derby win, piling on 17 unanswered goals to win by 101 points in the most one-sided derby in more than 20 years. Only time will tell if the Eagles can put together a pre-season capable of lifting themselves into a more competitive space, but the manner of that defeat would surely have left a sour and lingering taste after the Dockers extended their winning run in derbies to five. 

Jaeger O'Meara and Michael Walters celebrate a goal during the R22 match between Fremantle and West Coast at Optus Stadium on August 12, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Anzac Day Eve spectacular

Round 7, Wednesday April 24, MCG, 7.25pm AEST. Tickets here

Anzac Day Eve has grown into one of the marquee games on the calendar, backed up by the 83,895 fans who turned out for last year's game won by the Demons after a stirring last-quarter surge. This will mark new Tigers coach Adem Yze's first clash against the club where he made his name as a player and with whom he won a flag as assistant coach in 2021. 


Traditional Anzac Day blockbuster

Round 7, Thursday April 25, MCG, 3.20pm AEST. Tickets here

The biggest game of the home and away season every year, the Anzac Day clash will have extra spice after the thrilling encounter in 2023. Nick Daicos broke Essendon hearts in front of 95,000 fans last April after the Bombers gave up a lead of almost five goals at three-quarter time to lose by 13 points. After a tricky opening six rounds that includes away games against the Swans, Power and Crows, there will be plenty on the line for the Bombers come round seven.

Collingwood and Essendon players line up before the Anzac Day match at the MCG on April 25, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Showdown on the national stage

Round 8, Thursday May 2, Adelaide Oval, 7pm ACDT. Tickets here

The first Showdown ever played on a Thursday night promises to be a must-watch event nationally as the fierce rivals enter 2024 with high ambitions and do battle in a standalone free-to-air clash. The Crows and Power have only met on a Friday night once and they delivered a four-point thriller in that clash, with Port Adelaide prevailing. The Crows have won three of the past four Showdowns, including the most recent by 47 points. There will be differing views in 2024, however, about which of the South Australian teams is best placed to have a successful season. 

Darcy Fogarty handballs during the R20 match between Adelaide and Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on July 29, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Bitter rivals go toe to toe

Round 8, Friday May 3, MCG, 7.40pm AEST. Tickets here

In a round packed with contests between bitter foes, no rivalry carries as much meaning or history as this one. After the Pies and Blues shared the honours in last year's contest, both teams expect to be at the pointy end of the premiership race in 2024, and this clash should draw a huge crowd for a game that will showcase some of the AFL's biggest stars. 

Charlie Curnow attempts to mark during Carlton's round 10 match against Collingwood at the MCG on May 21, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

The Sydney Derby

Round 8, Saturday May 4, SCG, 1.45pm AEST. Tickets here

The Swans will still be haunted by last year's derby against the Giants at the SCG, when Toby Greene's late match-winner completed a stunning comeback from four goals down partway through the final term. The Giants love to hurt the Swans late, with their past four wins against their rivals coming by margins of two, two, one and one point. The Swans got a measure of revenge late in the 2023 season with an 11-point win at Giants Stadium and with both sides expected to push for finals, there will be more than just bragging rights on the line in this one.


Change of direction in the QClash?

Round 8, Sunday May 5, Gabba, 7.10pm AEST. Tickets here

What once was a one-sided battle between the Queensland rivals might finally have turned a corner. After nine straight QClash losses to the Lions, the Suns snapped the streak to cause a boilover in round 20 last year and with Damien Hardwick now at the helm, they should be brimming with confidence entering this encounter. This promises to be must-watch viewing in a standalone Sunday night match, with a public holiday in Queensland the following day.


Blues, Dees set for another thriller

Round 9, Thursday May 9, MCG, 7.30pm AEST. Tickets here

Nothing bar another finals win will make up for the heartbreak suffered by Demons fans after their side squandered a winning position against the Blues in a gripping semi-final in 2023. That thriller followed another tight tussle between the two sides in round 22, when a score review denied Christian Petracca a go-ahead goal late in the game. A total of six points separated Melbourne and Carlton in their final two meetings of 2023 and the stage is set for more drama next year. 


Feathers set to fly in battle of the birds

Round 10, Saturday May 18, MCG, 1.45pm AEST. Tickets here

As far as winning streaks go, Collingwood's eight-game run against Adelaide has been as dramatic as they come, particularly in recent times. The Magpies and Crows have become accustomed to putting on classic finishes, with a combined eight points separating them across their past three meetings. Last year's round 15 clash saw the Crows kick seven unanswered goals in the third quarter to turn a 27-point half-time deficit into a 13-point lead at the last change. Led by the Daicos brothers, the Magpies then soaked up finals-like pressure to win a thriller by two points. It's a shame they only meet once in 2024. 


Lachie Schultz against his old Docker mates

Round 11, Friday May 24, Optus Stadium, 6.10pm AWST. Tickets here

With his committed approach and relentless pressure, small forward Lachie Schultz was a fan favourite at Fremantle and a loss the Purple Army will feel in 2024. His departure came as a shock during the Continental Tyres AFL Trade Period and how the Dockers welcome the 25-year-old back to Optus Stadium will be interesting. The team became distracted by Rory Lobb's return in 2023, and a different approach – at least from the players – will be required against Schultz.  

Lachie Schultz takes a selfie on his first day as a Collingwood player on November 3. Picture: Collingwood FC

Old rivals face off on King's Birthday Eve

Round 13, Sunday June 9, MCG, 7.20pm AEST. Tickets here

The night before Melbourne and Collingwood's traditional King's Birthday match, old rivals Essendon and Carlton will do battle for the second year in a row under lights at the MCG. The Bombers emerged victorious in the new timeslot last year in front of more than 83,000 people. Interestingly, the clash provided the catalyst for the Blues – who fell to a sixth consecutive defeat – to then go on a nine-match winning streak to surge into finals for the first time since 2013.

Tom De Koning and Sam Draper compete in the ruck during Carlton's clash against Essendon in round 13, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Spice up your life for King's Birthday

Round 13, Monday June 10, MCG, 3.20pm AEST. Tickets here

There will be some extra spice in this year's King's Birthday clash when the reigning premiers face the Demons, whose star defender Steven May declared late last year 'we're a better team than them, we should have smoked them' in the wake of a tight qualifying final loss to the Magpies. The memory of Brayden Maynard's hit on Angus Brayshaw in that match still lingers and has an extra dimension now that the Demons midfielder has been forced into an early retirement. Both sides will face off again in the final round of the home and away season, another game that looms as must-watch. 

Jack Viney and Brayden Maynard clash during the qualifying final between Melbourne and Collingwood at the MCG on September 7, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Can Crows or Swans find the key to victory?

Round 14, Saturday June 15, Adelaide Oval, 7pm ACST. Tickets here

Adelaide's round 14 clash could well see 301 days of frustration and anger finally bubble over. The Crows' first meeting against Sydney since THAT Ben Keays non-goal in round 23 last year will again be on a Saturday night at the same venue and will likely have big finals ramifications as both clubs eye September footy.