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Fixture for final round remains undecided

Dylan Shiel of the Giants runs with the ball during the 2015 AFL Round 09 match between Western Bulldogs and the GWS Giants at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on May 30, 2015. (Photo: Robert Prezioso/AFL Media)
The emergence of the Bulldogs and Giants has made the round 23 fixture more challenging

FINALS contenders in every game scheduled for round 23 will see the AFL wait two or three more weeks before locking in times for its floating fixture, with a 'Super Saturday' of six games an option.

The League is yet to announce details for the round 23 games, with an AFL spokesperson saying they were working through possibilities.

They may wait until after round 19 to reveal the full schedule, and are considering holding six matches on Saturday and just two on Sunday. There will be only one Friday night game.

Since introducing its floating fixture format for the last round of the season, the AFL has tried to maximise the break for teams who are set to compete in finals the following week.

But the tight race for the finals means that will be a more difficult task this year, with all nine games featuring at least one team currently vying for a spot in the top eight.

The AFL wants to give clubs as much notice as possible to prepare for their final round game, but is also likely to assess results over the next two rounds (and possibly three) before confirming the last weekend of the home and away season. 

Clubs contacted by AFL.com.au had not yet been given any indication when their round 23 contests will be held.  

Generally the AFL has given fixture preference to Saturday matches to teams who are higher on the ladder, with all four top-four teams on the ladder at the time of scheduling last year given games either on Friday night or Saturday.

Ladder-leaders Fremantle play Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval in the final round and this could have been set for Friday night, but the Dockers play Melbourne on Sunday in round 22, so would only have a five-day break.

It could mean Hawthorn's clash with Carlton takes the spotlight on Friday night, as fellow top-four contenders West Coast also play on Sunday in round 22. 

Last year only one team (Adelaide) that was in the eight at the time of scheduling was fixtured for a Sunday game in the final round, because the Crows' game against St Kilda was at Adelaide Oval and they were not required to travel.  

But the emergence of Greater Western Sydney and the Western Bulldogs as legitimate finals chances has made for a more challenging round of fixturing this year.

At the start of the season, few would have predicted the Giants and Bulldogs to be in the race for the top-eight at this point of the year, but their respective final-round games against Melbourne and the Brisbane Lions could shape their tilts at September.

The League decided to host six games on a 'Super Saturday' in round six in a bid to be more family-friendly, with Mothers' Day falling on the Sunday that weekend.  

Round 23 fixture (times and days to be set)
Collingwood v Essendon, MCG
Richmond v North Melbourne, Etihad Stadium
Hawthorn v Carlton, MCG
Geelong v Adelaide, Simonds Stadium
Sydney Swans v Gold Coast, SCG
Melbourne v GWS, Etihad Stadium
Brisbane Lions v Western Bulldogs, Gabba
Port Adelaide v Fremantle, Adelaide Oval
West Coast v St Kilda, Domain Stadium