HAWTHORN and Collingwood will have to survive nightmare starts to the season in their bid to return to the Grand Final in 2020, with the two Victorian giants dealt the most difficult openings to the new campaign.
According to analysis from Champion Data, the Hawks and the Pies face the toughest first six weeks of any side in the competition and will have to get through an early onslaught in order to re-establish themselves as finals contenders once again.
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Hawthorn will play four of last year's top-five sides throughout its first six games, while Collingwood is set to do battle against half of last year's top-eight in its first six matches.
It's another blow for the Hawks, who were named to have the second most difficult draw overall on Thursday when the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Fixture was officially released by the League.
West Coast was announced to have the toughest fixture overall, while its local rivals Fremantle was named to have the easiest draw.
Essendon's task of returning to the finals once again next season will also be difficult, with the Bombers drawn to have the fourth hardest draw overall and the fourth most difficult finish to the campaign.
The Western Bulldogs will hope to have its own September position assured heading into the final month of the year, with Luke Beveridge's outfit assessed to have the most difficult end to the campaign.
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The Dogs won't have to leave Victoria throughout their last four games, but face difficult trips to GMHBA Stadium and to Mars Stadium in Ballarat among fixtures against Geelong, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and West Coast.
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Greater Western Sydney is set to clock up the most frequent flyer points, with the Giants set for 13 interstate trips throughout the season.
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On the other hand, Collingwood, Richmond and St Kilda have been handed 14 games each at their 'home' venue – the most of any teams in the competition.
Essendon is the new king of Thursday night football with four blockbuster clashes, while Richmond and Geelong each have six primetime Friday night fixtures.
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Greater Western Sydney will feature in the most Saturday games with 16, while North Melbourne has the most matches in the Sunday afternoon timeslot with 12.
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Essendon, Carlton, Richmond, St Kilda, Collingwood, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne are the unlucky sides forced to endure at least one five-day break at some stage throughout the season.
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