- 22 matches across 23 rounds to resume in Season 2021
- Rounds One to Six Fixture released today
- Five Thursday night matches in the first five rounds
- 14 of the 18 Clubs play in marquee Thursday and / or Friday timeslots in the opening six weeks
- Men’s footy returns to Victoria, NSW, ACT, Tasmania after a Covid-19 affected 2020 campaign
- AFL / AFLW Double headers in Rounds One and Two
- Rivalries aplenty across the first six weeks
- ANZAC Appeal Round to conclude the first block of the fixture
- Match ups and venues released for Round 7 to 23, dates and times to be announced throughout the season.
The AFL has today released Round One to Six of the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season, which will see men’s footy return to Victoria, NSW, ACT and Tasmania after a Covid-19 affected 2020 campaign.
The opening rounds of the season are jampacked with big matches, with five Thursday night matches in each of the first five weeks, while 14 of the 18 clubs will feature in marquee Thursday and / or Friday timeslots across the opening six weeks.
A focus on rivalries, both traditional and new, will feature heavily across the first six rounds, with reigning Premiers Richmond unveiling their 2019 and 2020 Premiership flags at the MCG ahead of their customary clash with Carlton which will open the 2021 season.
Essendon vs Hawthorn (Round One), Carlton vs Collingwood (Round Two), Geelong Cats vs Hawthorn (Round Three), Sydney Swans vs GWS Giants (Round Five), GWS Giants vs Western Bulldogs (Round Six) and Collingwood vs Essendon (Round Six) are some of the matches featured.
AFL and AFLW double headers will feature in both Round One, with Brisbane Lions vs Sydney Swans at the Gabba to follow Brisbane Lions vs Collingwood in the AFLW, and in Round Two, as Gold Coast Suns host North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium for both the men’s and women’s competitions.
Round Three will be played over the Easter Weekend, with Brisbane Lions and Collingwood at the Gabba playing on the now traditional Easter Thursday timeslot. A double header on Good Friday will once again be a feature of the Easter round as North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs play at Marvel Stadium in a match that supports the Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal, followed by the Adelaide Crows vs Gold Coast SUNS at Adelaide Oval.
Canberra will host its first match of the season on Easter Sunday as the GWS GIANTS play Melbourne at UNSW Canberra Oval, while Geelong and Hawthorn will once again do battle on Easter Monday at the MCG.
Round Four will see 2020 minor Premiers Port Adelaide face off against 2020 Premiers Richmond under Friday night lights at Adelaide Oval. Gold Coast SUNS will play Carlton at Metricon on Saturday night. In continuing the momentum and strong viewing numbers built in Queensland across the 2020 season, Channel 7 will broadcast all Saturday night games into Queensland on their primary channel in the first six rounds.
Round Five features three big nights to open the round, as St Kilda play Richmond at Marvel Stadium on the Thursday, West Coast Eagles host Collingwood at Optus Stadium on the Friday, then Brisbane Lions take on Essendon at the Gabba on Saturday night.
The Anzac Appeal Round (Round Six), completes the first block fixturing as GWS Giants return to Canberra to play the Western Bulldogs on Friday night, while Melbourne and Richmond compete in the now annual Anzac Day Eve match under lights at the MCG.
Anzac Day, Sunday April 25, will see three matches played.
Tasmania will host its first AFL Premiership Season match since season 2019, as Hawthorn hosts the Adelaide Crows at Launceston, followed by the traditional Anzac Day match between Collingwood and Essendon at the MCG. Port Adelaide will then take on St Kilda at Adelaide Oval in a Sunday night match to conclude the round.
Five-day breaks have once again been introduced, subject to parameters agreed with the AFLPA, to provide the best flexibility around Thursday and Friday night scheduling.
AFL Executive General Manager of Clubs and Broadcasting Travis Auld said the initial block of the fixture was constructed with the primary aim to achieve a strong start with a series of key Thursday and Friday night matches to build momentum into the early part of the season.
“We begin season 2021 with a renewed level of optimism, focusing on delivering fans a blockbuster schedule of matches to open the season.” Mr Auld said.
“Having so many different clubs feature in marquee timeslots is testament to the success of the AFL’s equalisation policies. The competitiveness and the ability for any team to win on any day gave us great confidence in the spread of marquee timeslots to begin the season.
“The first six weeks looks as exciting as any recent season in memory. We know supporters are looking forward to the return of the AFL season and there is much for fans to look forward to, whether that be attending matches or watching the broadcast.”
Mr Auld also said it was important to be able to schedule matches in the cities and states that had some significant challenges in the past 10 months.
“Bringing footy back to capital cities that faced a very uncertain and challenging time this year due to the Covid pandemic will be uplifting for not only the fans in those states, but also for the teams themselves that haven’t played in front of home crowds for basically a whole season.
Mr Auld also cautioned the industry on the on-going challenges of the pandemic.
“We must not lose sight of the ongoing pandemic, we will remain diligent and take every precaution, both at clubs during the week and in stadiums on match day, to ensure the health and well-being of everyone continues to be the key priority.
“Scheduling the fixture in blocks provides an added level of flexibility to adjust where required, and as our recent season demonstrated, our clubs and industry have the resilience and open-mindness to adapt where needed to keep footy going for the fans.”
“The storylines for season 2021 will be constructed across the course of the year, and we are excited to see how the players and clubs will shape the first six chapters of that story.”
Other highlights in the fixture beyond Rounds 1-6 include Sir Doug Nicholls Round to occur over Rounds 11-12 and to feature matches in both Darwin and Alice Springs, as well as the Dreamtime Game and Sydney’s Marn Grook game. The AFL is pleased to announce that the fixture will also include a match in Cairns – with St Kilda hosting Adelaide Crows in Round 13.
The timeslots for the next block of matches will be released once the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership season begins.
Matches will be broadcast live by the Seven Network, Foxtel and via Kayo and the official AFL Live Official App thanks to Telstra.
The AFL would like to acknowledge the support of all industry stakeholders throughout this process as well as Optimal Planning for their assistance in the construction of the fixture.