THE FIXTURE for the opening rounds of the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season is out.
In the aftermath of rounds two to five being revealed, AFL.com.au reporter Riley Beveridge has broken it all down to 'keep things simple' for you, as we look at what it all means for the 18 AFL clubs.
ROUNDS 2-5 Check out the full fixture
Why are there only four rounds in this fixture?
The ever-changing and incredibly fluid nature of the global COVID-19 pandemic has meant everyone has had to evolve and be as flexible as possible. That includes the fixture. Throughout the remaining 16 weeks of the season, the fixture will be released in four-match blocks. That ensures the AFL and its clubs will be ready to react to any change in travel restrictions and travel exemptions from state governments. For example, while South Australian and Western Australian clubs will be based in the Gold Coast throughout the opening month of the recommenced season, they might be able to return home and host interstate sides at their own grounds after round five. Having an adaptable short-term fixture will allow the League to make those changes as they happen. The AFL is planning to release the next batch of games – which will start from round six – after round three.
How has the scheduling changed?
Despite the theory that the AFL's schedule might have to change significantly upon the resumption of competition to accommodate a condensed season, the fixture follows a pretty traditional model. However, there are some differences. Thursday night matches (7.40pm AEST) will open every weekend from rounds two to five, before concluding with a newly introduced Sunday night fixture. They will be played at 6.05pm AEST to suit a predominantly television audience. There will still be Friday night games (7.50pm AEST), while games will be played during the day (1.45pm AEST), twilight (4.35pm AEST) and night slots (7.40pm AEST) on Saturdays. Sundays will feature an early game (1.05pm AEST), the regular mid-afternoon fixture (3.35pm AEST) and conclude with the evening match. There will also be double-headers at Metricon Stadium in rounds three and four, with two matches to be played in Gold Coast on Sunday 21 June (at 1.05pm AEST and 6.05pm AEST respectively) and two further matches to be played there on Saturday 27 June (at 1.45pm AEST and 7.40pm AEST respectively).
Who are the big winners?
There are two obvious winners at first glance. Last year's surprise packets, Brisbane, won't have to travel away from the Gabba throughout the first four weeks of the newly recommenced season. Having hubs based in Queensland means the Lions will face the two West Australian sides, then the two South Australian sides, in this four-match block. It's the perfect opportunity for Chris Fagan's side to rebound from a round one loss to Hawthorn. The draw also benefits Geelong. Not having to factor in crowd sizes means the Cats can play all of their home games at their base at GMHBA Stadium. It means Hawthorn will venture to Geelong territory for the first time since 2006, when the match otherwise would have been played at the MCG. It also ensures the Cats have three of their next four matches on their own turf, with the Blues and the Suns also heading to Kardinia Park.
How many grounds are being used?
All of the traditional venues on the east coast of Australia will be used throughout the first month of the recommenced season. West Coast, Fremantle, Adelaide and Port Adelaide – as well as Gold Coast – will play at Metricon Stadium, while Brisbane will host games at the Gabba. Greater Western Sydney will use Giants Stadium, while Sydney will play at the SCG. The MCG and Marvel Stadium will be used in Victoria, while Geelong will have access to GMHBA Stadium and Adelaide Oval will host the Showdown in round three. Despite official requests from clubs like North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, venues in Tasmania and Ballarat have not been called upon yet.
Will teams still have to travel?
Yes, they will. In fact, across the four weeks of this fixture release, a total of 10 clubs will have to travel interstate at some point. Only one of those clubs, the reigning premiers Richmond, will head to Queensland. There are six other Victorian teams – North Melbourne, Essendon, Western Bulldogs, Collingwood, Melbourne and Hawthorn – who will have to head to New South Wales. Both Sydney and Greater Western Sydney will have to journey to Victoria once, while the Suns will also have to fly to Victoria. None of the teams in Gold Coast hubs – West Coast, Fremantle, Adelaide and Port Adelaide – will have to leave Queensland, while Brisbane also won't travel away from the Gabba. That leaves Carlton, Geelong and St Kilda as the only Victorian sides without an interstate trip before round five.
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What about the WA and SA clubs?
A change in South Australian restriction laws has meant Adelaide and Port Adelaide can play the Showdown at the Adelaide Oval in round two. Crucially, that match will count as a Power home game. They'll then travel to their Gold Coast hub a week later than West Coast and Fremantle, who will have to be situated in Queensland before June 11. The Eagles and the Dockers will each play three of their four matches at Metricon Stadium, with the other at the Gabba, while only one of those four games will count a 'home' match. The Crows and the Power will play two of their three contests at Metricon Stadium, with the other at the Gabba. Like the two West Australian sides, each South Australian team will play one fixtured 'home' game in Queensland.