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Thursday night locked in to start final series

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 08: Jack Darling and Matt Priddis of the Eagles look on during the National Anthem during the 2016 AFL Second Elimination Final match between the West Coast Eagles and the Western Bulldogs at Domain Stadium on September 08, 2016 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Media)
The Eagles and Bulldogs kicked off last season's finals on a Thursday night

FOR the second straight year, the finals will kick off with a Thursday night match after the success of last year's West Coast-Western Bulldogs elimination final in Perth.

The bye weekend following round 23 gives the AFL an opportunity to stage a match on a Thursday night without depriving participating clubs of adequate preparation time for the game.

The historic clash between the Eagles and Bulldogs was the third-highest rated game of the season, with a peak national audience of 1.564 million free-to-air viewers on the Seven Network.

Another 420,000 viewers watched on Fox Footy, according to ratings data released following the game.

Given the perception that Thursday night football works better in Perth and Adelaide, acting AFL football operations boss Andrew Dillon said on Tuesday a Thursday night final was locked in regardless of ladder positions.

In preference to a Sunday final, the League will hold a Saturday afternoon clash.

"(The first final) will certainly be on a Thursday night, whether it's interstate or not will depend on how round 23 plays out," Dillon told SEN.

"We'll probably be still waiting until the (result of the) West Coast-Adelaide twilight game on Sunday to know exactly what the final make-up of the eight is.

"But it will be Thursday night, Friday night, and then we'll have two games on the Saturday, one during the day and one at night."

Dillon said the AFL was yet to decide whether Geelong would host a home final at Simonds Stadium in week one if it secured a top-two finish.

A win over Greater Western Sydney on Saturday night would guarantee second spot for the Cats, and a likely re-match against the Giants in week one of the finals.

"We haven't got a final view on that, and when we do the scheduling for the finals we'll take into account a number of factors, the (crowd size), broadcasters, venues, contractual obligations and days breaks (for participating clubs).

"There's still a lot permutations and combinations, and they won't be known until after Sunday."