Josh Daicos handballs while being tackled by Conor McKenna during the Toyota AFL Grand Final between Collingwood and Brisbane on September 30, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

COLLINGWOOD is set to face huge challenges at either end of the 2024 season, while the Western Bulldogs have every chance to bank some early wins in their campaign.

Melbourne and St Kilda face the starts from hell, and a brutal patch looms for Hawthorn in its second six weeks of the home and away season. 

That's the verdict of our fixture analysis, which breaks the season down into blocks to assess the difficulty of each section of the season for all 18 clubs. 

The Magpies are coming off winning their record-equalling 16th VFL/AFL premiership in September and they face the toughest opening six games of any club.

Collingwood takes on five finalists from last season in its opening six games, including Brisbane in a Grand Final rematch in round three.

Melbourne and St Kilda are equal second for the most difficult start.

Sydney, Port Adelaide and the Lions are among the Demons' opponents before their round six bye, while the Saints face the Magpies and Greater Western Sydney in their first six.

After missing the finals last year for the first time since 2018, the Bulldogs have an opportunity to make a flying start in 2024.

Jack Macrae, Marcus Bontempelli and Bailey Smith look dejected after the Western Bulldogs' loss to Hawthorn in round 22, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

While they meet the Demons in a tough round one fixture, their next four games are against teams who also missed finals last year in Gold Coast, West Coast, Geelong and Essendon.

Interestingly, the Magpies and Demons are also in the top two for the most difficult finish to the season when analysing who clubs will face in the final five rounds.

After meeting Richmond in round 20, Collingwood comes home with clashes against Carlton, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

The Demons take on the Giants, Bulldogs, Port and Gold Coast before the final-round showdown with the Pies.

Jack Viney fends off Tom Mitchell during Melbourne's loss to Collingwood in the 2023 qualifying final. Picture: AFL Photos

Given their tough bookends, the Magpies also have the easiest run in the opening 18 rounds when breaking that part of the season down into each club's blocks of six.

Between rounds 13 and 19, Collingwood takes on five teams that finished 2023 11th or lower in North Melbourne, Gold Coast, Essendon, Geelong and Hawthorn, with that run beginning with a clash against the Demons.

The degree of difficulty is calculated using the finishing positions from 2023.

See below for the average ladder positions of who your club is facing through four different blocks in 2024.

Adel 10.2 9.8 7.5 10
BL 8.8 11.2 9 7.6
Carl 10 7.8 11 9.4
Coll 7 10.8 12.8 6.4
Ess 9.2 11.3 8.3 9.2
Frem 9.2 7.3 11.2 10
Geel 10.2 7.7 8 13.2
GC 10 10.5 8 10
GWS 10.2 9.7 9 9.4
Haw 10.3 6.8 10.3 9.4
Melb 8.3 11.2 10.5 6.8
NM 8.5 11 7 13.6
PA 10.5 10.8 8.3 8.2
Rich 9.3 9 8.7 11.2
StK 8.3 12.7 9.7 8.2
Syd 10.7 9.7 9 7.2
WC 8.8 8.3 9.8 12.2
WB 11.5 9.3 8.8 9