FOR the second consecutive season, COVID-19 has forced the AFL's Essendon-Richmond Dreamtime game away from the MCG, with the 2021 edition to be played next Saturday night at Perth's Optus Stadium.
The AFL on Sunday night confirmed the change as part of a major rejig of the six matches in the round 12 fixture. With six teams having a bye in round 12, the official venues and times for the remaining five matches will be formalised on Monday.
The three matches initially scheduled to be played in Melbourne in round 12 will all be moved, and Friday night's blockbuster between ladder leader Melbourne and third-placed Brisbane will be shifted from Alice Springs, most likely to a Sydney venue.
St Kilda versus Sydney, initially scheduled for Marvel Stadium on Saturday, will be relocated – to either Sydney or Cairns, where the Saints already have a round 13 assignment against Adelaide.
The Carlton-West Coast game on Sunday will be moved from the MCG, most likely to Sydney.
Western Bulldogs will spend the week in New South Wales before they are expected to fly to Perth in readiness for a match on Sunday against Fremantle at Optus Stadium.
At this stage, Adelaide will host Collingwood as fixtured at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.
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The state of Victoria's latest lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has again caused carnage in the AFL's fixturing, with the AFL forced to act hastily late last week to alter some round 11 matches.
While all clubs have been told to prepare for the possibility of last-minute changes, as of Sunday night the teams initially scheduled for a bye in round 12 were planning for that to be the case. As such, Gold Coast, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, Geelong and GWS will next play in round 13.
In 2020, the Dreamtime match was played in Darwin.