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Fixture analysis: Pies' back half from hell, Tigers cruise

The 2019 fixture revealed Nat Edwards and Travis Auld discuss all the big talking points from the 2019 AFL Fixture

COLLINGWOOD was always going to pay for its rise up the ladder last year when the 2019 fixture was released on Thursday. But Nathan Buckley will at least have a good chance to get the Magpies' season off on the right note before their tough finish to the year awaits.

The Pies will open their season against Geelong on a Friday night at the MCG – the first of nine Thursday or Friday night games for Buckley's men, who proved themselves as one of the most watchable sides in the competition last year. 

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They're back at their home ground the following week against Richmond, before clashing with West Coast in the Grand Final rematch in round three at the MCG.

Champion Data, who said Collingwood's fixture was the easiest in 2018, has assessed the Pies' fixture as the hardest in the competition next year. However, the Pies' first half of the year gives it the opportunity to get started in strong fashion.  

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The Tigers and Eagles are the only sides from last year's top six who the Pies will meet in the opening 11 rounds, and they will leave Melbourne just once, when they travel to face Brisbane in round five to open the Easter round. 

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Among their opposition in that block of games includes outings against the Bulldogs, Port Adelaide, Carlton, St Kilda, Fremantle, Essendon and the Lions, all who didn't feature in last year's top eight. 

But the Pies will be desperate to clinch victories when they can, because the glass half-empty Collingwood fan will be fast-forwarding to the final eight weeks of the year with some dread. 

That glance sees some challenging games: on the road to play the Eagles, Giants and Crows, plus matches against two of last year's top four at the end of the home and away season (Richmond and Hawthorn). If the Pies are to back-up their stellar 2018 season, they'll need to get going early.

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On the other hand, watch for the Tigers to purr home. Their last seven games are played at the MCG, of which one will be their round 22 clash with premiers West Coast. They don't face the Eagles in Perth, either, and Champion Data rates theirs the 13th hardest fixture.

Back-to-back road trips to Greater Wester Sydney and Adelaide in rounds three and four present a difficulty early for Damien Hardwick, but the Tigers, having dominated last year before falling at the preliminary final, have a friendly draw and loom as contenders again.

The Hawks will look at that run home with some envy. Four of Hawthorn's final seven games are outside Victoria, including the final round against West Coast at Optus Stadium.

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Their start to the season will be off Broadway. They open the season with a Saturday twilight game before playing four Sunday afternoon games in a row, an Easter Monday game against Geelong and then another Sunday afternoon clash. Get used to the 3:20pm timeslot, Hawks fans.

In comparison to the Hawks' finish to the year, Carlton plays three of its last five games at the MCG. Where they were the Friday night horror show of 2018, the wooden spooners will be swept away from prime-time next year, playing 16 day games and three twilight games. They don't have any Friday night fixtures.

A new-look Port Adelaide without Chad Wingard and Jared Polec will play seven of its last 10 games at Adelaide Oval, including a four-game stretch from round 14-17 at home giving it a chance to rocket into the finals. They play two games at the MCG, which is one more than North Melbourne throughout its season.

After the AFL's misstep in prime time last year, the League has made it clear across its fixture that performance will be rewarded. Gold Coast doesn't have any free-to-air games (with round 23's floating fixture to be confirmed), while last year's bottom six teams on the ladder share just one Friday night appearance.

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They have brought in Essendon and its fanbase to add weight to the Good Friday contest; a blockbuster the Bombers didn't ask for or request (they actually wanted to play the night before).

The Bombers' promise and attacking game plan has been backed in by the fixture gurus, but they are one of only four sides to travel to Perth twice (alongside North, Port and the Bulldogs).

Fixture breakdown

Plays twice

Games against
top four
Games against
bottom four
Six-day
breaks
Five-day
breaks
Interstate
'away' trips
Adelaide Cats, Suns, Saints
Power, Eagles
5 6 6 1 10
Brisbane Hawks, Roos, Power,
Dogs, Suns
4 4 4 1 10
Carlton Tigers, Swans, Dogs,
Saints, Suns
5 5 4 0 6
Collingwood Tigers, Dees, Eagles,
Dons, Dogs
6 4 8 0 5
Essendon Pies, Giants, Roos,
Swans, Freo
5 4 7 1 6
Fremantle Eagles, Power, Dons,
Dogs, Saints
5 5 6 0 10
Geelong Hawks, Roos, Swans,
Crows, Dogs
4 4 5 1 6
Gold Coast Giants, Crows, Lions,
Saints, Blues
4 6 3 0 10
GWS Dons, Suns, Hawks,
Tigers, Swans
5 5 4 0 10
Hawthorn Eagles, Cats, Giants,
Roos, Lions
5 5 6 0 5
Melbourne Tigers, Eagles, Pies,
Swans, Saints
6 5 6 1 (four days) 5
North Melbourne Cats, Hawks, Power,
Dons, Lions
4 5 6 0 5
Port Adelaide Tigers, Roos, Crows,
Lions, Freo
5 5 3 0 11*
Richmond Dees, Pies, Giants,
Power, Blues
5 5 6 1 (four days) 5
St Kilda Dees, Crows, Freo,
Suns, Blues
5 5 5 0 6*
Sydney Blues, Dons, Cats,
Giants, Dees
5 5 5 1 10
West Coast Dees, Pies, Hawks,
Crows, Freo
5 4 5 0 10
Western Bulldogs Pies, Cats, Freo,
Lions, Blues
5 6 3 1 5

* St Kilda's 'home' match against Port Adelaide at Jiangwan Stadium in China has been counted for both clubs