CARLTON has been rewarded for its thrilling finals run with a blockbuster-heavy 2024 fixture, with the Blues and Grand Finalist Brisbane both scheduled for an AFL-high seven matches in prime Thursday or Friday night slots.
The AFL fixture includes a 14-week run of Thursday night matches, starting with the Opening Round clash between Sydney and Melbourne at the SCG before moving into the round one MCG opener between Richmond and Carlton, and then finishing in round 13.
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With the Blues also scheduled to play in the Good Friday match against North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium, Michael Voss's team will have an AFL-high eight matches on either Thursday or Friday through the opening 16 weeks of the season.
Melbourne has an AFL-high four Thursday night matches during that run, while Adelaide, Brisbane and Carlton will all play three each, with a Grand Final rematch scheduled for the Gabba on the Thursday night of round three.
Premier Collingwood will join Carlton and Brisbane with a strong Friday night presence across four primetime matches, including its season opener against Sydney at the MCG. A blockbuster Friday night clash between the Magpies and Blues is scheduled at the MCG in round eight.
Essendon, Fremantle, Hawthorn, North Melbourne and West Coast have all been denied Thursday night matches in 2024, with the Hawks and Eagles also missing out on Friday night clashes during the first 16 rounds before the fixture moves to a floating system.
Other clubs to miss out on Friday night games so far are Melbourne, Richmond, Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney.
In a win for fans, the standard starting time for Friday night matches will be brought forward by 10 minutes to 7.40pm eastern. Most Thursday night games will begin at 7.30pm eastern, 10 minutes later than in 2023.
North Melbourne will play two Friday twilight games, hosting Carlton in the Good Friday clash in round three at Marvel Stadium before Fremantle hosts Adelaide at Optus Stadium that night. The Kangaroos will also meet Brisbane in a Friday clash in Gather Round in round four.
Round seven will include a Thursday double-header on Anzac Day, with Greater Western Sydney hosting Brisbane at Manuka Oval following Essendon and Collingwood's clash at the MCG.
A Friday night double-header will take place in round nine when Geelong hosts Port Adelaide and Sydney travels to play Fremantle.
The Eagles will host the Dockers in the opening Western Derby of the season on a Saturday night in round six, while the Showdown between Adelaide and Port Adelaide has been set for a Thursday night in round eight, hosted by the Crows.
The opening Sydney Derby between the Swans and Giants is set for Saturday afternoon in round eight at the SCG before the first QClash of the season between Gold Coast and Brisbane the following day.
Adelaide has emerged as a fixture winner given its heavy access to a combined six Thursday and Friday night matches during the 'set' portion of the fixture, trailing only Brisbane, Carlton and Collingwood in the prime timeslots.
The League has not yet scheduled any Thursday night matches beyond round 14.
On the crucial element of five-day breaks, only four teams – Adelaide, Melbourne, Richmond and St Kilda – have been handed two. Essendon, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Sydney and West Coast have escaped without any.
The League's weighted rule for double-up matches has again split the teams into groups of six to manage who plays who in the six 'return' clashes.
Fremantle and West Coast are the only teams to escape without double-up matches against top-four teams from 2023. Of last year's top eight, finalist St Kilda will only play Brisbane and Port Adelaide twice.
Melbourne appears to have been handed tough elements to its draw as the only team with double-up matches against both Grand Finalists, Collingwood and Brisbane, as well as second clashes with Port Adelaide, the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle to go with West Coast.
Gold Coast will face new coach Damien Hardwick's former club Richmond twice, with the return clash scheduled at the MCG in the final round of the season.
With eight teams starting their seasons early for Opening Round in NSW and Queensland, byes will subsequently be scattered over eight later rounds.
Teams involved in the first week of the season will take their first bye two at a time over rounds two, three, five and six. All 18 teams then have a bye scheduled between rounds 12 and 15.