The Grand Final rematch
What better way to start the season than pitting last season's Grand Finalists Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs at a (hopefully) packed MCG on Wednesday, March 16? Although six months will have separated the matches, both teams should be almost identical to those that squared off at Optus Stadium for the Demons' drought-breaking triumph in September. A mouth-watering opener and they will face each other again in round 19 at Marvel Stadium.
Carlton's first game under Voss the Boss
A new coach always brings hope, and there's a little extra oomph for Carlton fans with the appointment of Michael Voss. Brisbane's triple premiership captain last had a senior job in 2013 and will be thrown straight into the fire in the opening round against Richmond at the MCG on Thursday, March 17.
Son of a gun debuts as Pies begin new era
Craig McRae will make his senior coaching debut in the opening round when the Magpies play the Saints at Marvel Stadium on Friday, March 18. After serving a long apprenticeship at stops that included Richmond and the Hawks, McRae has been chosen to continue Collingwood's rebuild and the Magpie Army will be keen to see how he goes as much-hyped father-son Nick Daicos also likely makes his debut.
Sydney rivals clash in front of monster crowd
Sydney and Greater Western Sydney added another thrilling chapter to its simmering rivalry last season when the Giants won a third successive final against its cross-town rival by eliminating the Swans with a one-point triumph in Launceston. This round one match will be played at Accor Stadium on Saturday, March 19 to facilitate a bigger crowd, and even without suspended Toby Greene, should be a beauty. The second Sydney Derby will be at the SCG in round 20.
Mitchell's coaching debut against No.1 pick
Following Alastair Clarkson's 17-season, four-premiership reign in charge, the Hawks will usher in the Sam Mitchell-era against North Melbourne in the opening round on Sunday, March 20. The same game will likely see the Kangaroos unveil their coveted No.1 draft pick in Jason Horne-Francis, who has already proved he can play against men, starring in the SANFL finals series last season.
Buddy's chase for history
In the opening fortnight the eyes of every footy lover should be on Sydney's Lance Franklin who needs just five goals to become the sixth man to reach the magical 1000-mark for his career. If it doesn't come against the Giants in round one, the Swans will host Geelong at the SCG in round two where it would likely fall.
The Western Derby
Always a contest worth watching, are we about to see the handing of the West Australian baton from West Coast to Fremantle? The Eagles had won 11 consecutive matches between these rivals before the Dockers got home in a tight contest late last season. Lock in round three and 22 for these massive clashes.
Historic Friday night Showdown
Although at different ends of the competition the past two years, the Adelaide v Port Adelaide contest really is a "it doesn't matter where they are on the ladder" type of deal. Long regarded as one of the best rivalries in the AFL, the Crows came within a whisker of edging their more fancied rivals when the teams last met. Can Matthew Nicks' young team spring a surprise? The first Showdown will be held on a Friday night for the first time in round three, while they clash again in round 23.
Bailey returns to scene of the crime
It was an epic finish when Geelong and Brisbane clashed at the Cattery in 2021 and get set for another mouth-watering match-up. Who could forget Lion Zac Bailey's unrewarded late tackle on Mark Blicavs which the AFL conceded should have been a free kick? The Cats and Lions will battle it out in round four at GMHBA Stadium under Friday night lights, which will be the Cats' first home game of the season.
Toby Greene's return
The GWS superstar will play his first game of the season in round six against St Kilda after copping a six-game ban for contact with an umpire in the Giants' elimination final win over Sydney. Any game Greene plays is worth watching, but the 28-year-old will be like a caged lion having to watch his teammates for five matches before he's unleashed.
Adam Cerra v Fremantle
Unquestionably the biggest move of the Trade Period, Adam Cerra's return home to Victoria left the Dockers short of one of their key young building blocks. How he helps a Carlton midfield that contains Sam Walsh and Patrick Cripps, and how Fremantle retools its onball brigade following his loss, makes this an enticing match-up. They clash at Optus Stadium in round six and then again in round 15 at Marvel Stadium.
Brisbane v Gold Coast
It's fair to say the QClash hasn't quite captured the imagination of the broader AFL public, but the performance of Jarryd Lyons alone is reason enough to watch. Lyons, who waved goodbye by the Suns three years ago, won the Marcus Ashcroft Medal in both matches in 2021. Can Gold Coast slow him down? They first clash on Anzac Day eve at Metricon Stadium and then again in round 19 at the Gabba.
Anzac Day eve
This could be one of the most highly anticipated matches of the year – the reigning premier Melbourne against a dynastic Richmond outfit that is hoping to rise again. Although the following day's contest between Essendon and Collingwood has the history, this one featuring Dustin Martin against Christian Petracca and Steven May against Tom Lynch has the makings of being a showstopper.
Hawks in Tassie on Anzac Day
Get set for a footy feast on Anzac Day. Hawthorn will host Sydney at the University of Tasmania Stadium in the perfect warm-up for the day's double-header. How will Swans superstar Lance 'Buddy' Franklin fare against his old mates?
Traditional Anzac Day blockbuster
Outside of the Finals Series, this is arguably the biggest day on the AFL calendar. No matter how Collingwood and Essendon are travelling on the ladder, you can almost guarantee 75,000-plus fans will fill the MCG. Two young lists with two young coaches – anything could happen.
Port Adelaide v Western Bulldogs
This is a match Port – and its fans – should have circled on the draw. The Bulldogs embarrassed Ken Hinkley's men, at Adelaide Oval no less, in last season's preliminary final, to end their premiership dreams. How Port responds might go a long way to telling us, and them, how serious they are in 2022. They clash at Adelaide Oval in round eight for a Friday night blockbuster.
Collingwood v Western Bulldogs
Last season this match was a round one contest pitting Adam Treloar against his former club, but next season it promises excitement for a different reason. It should – or certainly could depending on the time of year – be the first time father/son stars Nick Daicos and Sam Darcy play one another after being taken in the top four of the NAB AFL Draft. This clash will open round nine on Friday night at Marvel Stadium.
Sydney v Essendon
This has sneakily become one of the must-watch head-to-heads in the competition. In the past three seasons they've played each other five times, and the largest margin of victory has been just 10 points, starting with the 'Dane Rampe Game' in 2019. The Swans have won three times, including both in 2021, and the Bombers twice. They clash in round nine at the SCG and round 16 at the MCG.
Dreamtime at the 'G
The Essendon-Richmond contest at the MCG has become synonymous with Sir Doug Nicholls Round, but like so many things in the past two years, has been forced into change. The games in Darwin (2020) and Perth (2021) have been incredible spectacles and terrific for the code at large, but a return to a packed 'home' should be extra special in 2022. This huge clash will happen in round 10.
Greater Western Sydney v Western Bulldogs
It's hard to argue this isn’t the greatest current-day rivalry in the League. Although the Bulldogs steamrolled the Giants late in last year's encounter, a history of trades, scuffles and Tribunal appearances has littered match-ups between these clubs over the past decade. They first face off in round 14 at Giants Stadium and then in round 22 at Marvel Stadium.
Richmond v North Melbourne
During a relatively quiet Continental Tyres AFL Trade Period, the swap between the Tigers and Kangaroos of Callum Coleman-Jones and Robbie Tarrant was fascinating. Will Richmond acquiring the veteran defender or North Melbourne with the young and imposing key forward/ruck have the bigger impact when they clash in round 18?
Melbourne in Alice Springs
The Demons have a long-established connection with the Northern Territory, but after having their 2021 fixture against Brisbane in Alice Springs moved to Sydney following COVID-19 complications, the return to the middle of the country next season should be even more special. Having the phrase 'reigning premier' attached should help pack out TIO Traeger Park in round 18 when they host Port Adelaide.