MELBOURNE is the biggest loser from the AFL's new fixture, but it has nothing to do with who the Demons have been set to play from rounds two to five.
After their disastrous 2019 campaign, which saw them finish second last on the ladder, the Demons' hopes of a quick bounce back into top-four contention and to prove last year was a one-off were helped when they were given one of the easiest draws in the competition for 2020.
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Then COVID-19 hit.
Champion Data last year ranked the Demons with the third-easiest draw in the AFL, with only Fremantle and the Swans having a better run according to the statistics supplier.
Due to its shocking drop to the bottom rungs of the competition and the way the AFL structures its fixture based on clubs' finishing positions, Melbourne's hopes of a swift rebound were given a huge boost by getting to play three of last year's bottom-four sides twice (Fremantle, St Kilda and Gold Coast).
It had only one 'double up' against a top-six side, and that was fellow Victorian club Collingwood, with Adelaide the only side from the middle-six clubs the Demons were due to play twice.
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Of course that advantage has now been wiped out, after the AFL reduced the season to 17 rounds due to the coronavirus outbreak, with each club only playing each other once. It tore up the fixture and started anew.
Everyone, now, is back to an even playing field on that front.
The League will announce its fixture in blocks, with the Demons' first group of opponents locked in on Monday: Carlton (round two), Essendon (round three), Geelong (round four) and Sydney (round five at the SCG).
Of course while Melbourne suffers from the total fixture revamp, there are also beneficiaries of last year's fixture being scrapped.
West Coast was ranked as having the hardest draw of any club when it was revealed in October last year, and not just due to travel demands.
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The Eagles were knocked out in the semi-final in 2019 but had been drawn to face three of last year's preliminary finalists – Richmond, Geelong and Collingwood – twice.
However, the task of having to play their next four games in Queensland while in the Gold Coast high performance centre, including one clash against the Tigers, clearly takes away from the advantage of not facing those sides for a total of six times.
Hawthorn will get a fixture bonus, having been facing the second-hardest draw according to Champion Data, while Gold Coast and Essendon, who were also viewed as having some of the hardest fixtures in the league, could take an advantage by the changes.
HOW CHAMPION DATA HAD RANKED THE 2020 FIXTURE DIFFICULTY
(From hardest to easiest)
1 West Coast
3 Gold Coast
5 Greater Western Sydney
8 North Melbourne
10 St Kilda
12 Western Bulldogs
14 Port Adelaide