THE WESTERN Bulldogs and Sydney Swans are the kings of prime-time footy with this year's Grand Finalists dominating the Thursday and Friday night timeslots in 2017.
Next year's Toyota AFL Premiership Season Fixture was unveiled by the AFL on Thursday morning, and reigning premiers the Western Bulldogs have been rewarded with seven Friday night games plus one on a Thursday night, while the vanquished Sydney Swans play eight times on a Friday night and twice on a Thursday night.
The first of two Grand Final rematches will take place at Etihad Stadium on the Friday night of round two, when the Bulldogs will unveil their 2016 premiership flag.
The AFL has increased the number of Thursday night games from five to eight, with two at the MCG over the opening fortnight of the season and another at the redeveloped Simonds Stadium in round 10. That game will be the first of five consecutive Thursday night games.
Canberra's Manuka Oval will also stage its first ever Friday night game in round six when Greater Western Sydney hosts the Bulldogs in a rematch of last season's magnificent preliminary final. It will be the Giants' Friday night debut and will mark the first of three prime-time games for GWS in 2017.
The AFL has not scheduled a game for the opening Saturday afternoon of the season on March 25 so that the Grand Final of the inaugural AFL Women's competition can be played at that time.
As already announced, two new venues come on stream in 2017. Port Adelaide and Gold Coast will play the first AFL game for premiership points in China at Shanghai's Jiangwan Sports Centre in round eight, while in round 22, Ballarat's Eureka Stadium will stage the Dogs and the Power.
The bye periods will run from rounds 11-13.
The AFL has backed in St Kilda as a big drawcard with four Friday night games in 2017.
However, another likely improver, Melbourne, plays just once in the prized timeslot.
The Saints have been rewarded with plenty of Friday night footy. Picture: AFL Photos
Richmond opens the season with two Thursday night games but then disappears from prime time entirely. In 2016 the Tigers played six Friday and one Thursday night game.
Fremantle also misses out on Friday night action.
The Demons do face an acid test in another area, as one of four clubs, along with Geelong, Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs, facing eight six-day breaks over the course of the season. Adelaide and the Swans will need to negotiate seven six-day breaks.
At the other end of the ladder, Gold Coast faces just two six-day turnarounds.
There will also be three five-day breaks in the AFL next season.
Because Anzac Day falls on a Tuesday in 2017, Collingwood and Essendon will have to play on the following Sunday. West Coast also has a dreaded five day-break. It will host the Swans at Domain Stadium on Easter Thursday (as requested) just five days after facing Richmond at the MCG.
In more good news for the Bulldogs, they play only two of last season's other top-six teams twice (the Swans and Giants), as does Adelaide (Geelong and Hawthorn). The Swans, Giants, Geelong and Hawthorn play two matches each against three of their fellow top-six clubs.
West Coast has a tough draw with two matches each against the Bulldogs, the Giants and the improving St Kilda, as well as derby clashes with a new-look Fremantle.
And a team to watch from the bottom six might be Gold Coast. The Suns have a favourable draw. Out of 2016's top eight, the Suns only have to play Hawthorn and North Melbourne twice, the rest once. The Suns also play Carlton and the Brisbane Lions twice, encounters they will expect to win in 2017.
As already reported, Good Friday football will be played for the first time in 2017 when North Melbourne hosts the Western Bulldogs in a twilight clash at Etihad Stadium.
Both rounds four (Easter) and five (Anzac) will be played over five days each, which means 10 days of football over 13 days between April 13-25.
Apart from the already announced Hawthorn 'grudge' matches against new Eagle Sam Mitchell (MCG, round five) and new Demon Jordan Lewis (MCG, round seven), other tasty match-ups include new Giant Brett Deledio against Richmond at Spotless Stadium in round nine, and Collingwood's Daniel Wells against his old club North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium in round 20.
Collingwood will celebrate its 125th birthday with a Saturday afternoon clash in round seven against arch-rival Carlton at the MCG.
The Showdowns will take place in rounds three and 20, the West Australian derbies in rounds six and 17, the Sydney derbies in rounds five and 17 and the Q Clashes in rounds one and 21.
The AFL has retained the floating fixture in round 23 - nine games with the dates and times to be confirmed before the end of the season. Among those that might shape the finals are what could be the last ever AFL game at Domain Stadium, featuring West Coast hosting Adelaide, as well as Hawthorn as the home team against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium, Collingwood v Melbourne and Richmond v St Kilda, both at the MCG, and Geelong v GWS at Simonds Stadium.
As part of the new TV rights agreement that kicks in next year, all Saturday afternoon home and away games will now be shown exclusively on Foxtel. Channel Seven will broadcast all the Thursday night games, except for the Easter Thursday Eagles v Swans clash.
Gillon McLachlan and Travis Auld at the 2017 fixture launch. Picture: AFL Photos