THE WESTERN Bulldogs are the new primetime kings following the AFL's fixture release on Thursday.
The Bulldogs, who lost last season's Toyota AFL Grand Final to Melbourne following a fairytale run through September, will play six of their first nine matches in front of national television audiences on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday nights.
Their rise has come at the expense of triple-premiership winner Richmond, which fell out of the finals picture in 2021 and has now fallen out of the marquee timeslots in in the first part of the 2022 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
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Following their opening round match against Carlton at the MCG, the Tigers have to wait until round seven when they travel to Optus Stadium to play West Coast on a Friday night for another game on the big stage.
The AFL has locked in timeslots and venues for the opening nine rounds and then just match-ups and venues from rounds 10 to 23, with days and times to be confirmed later.
While the Bulldogs have six primetime matches in those first nine weeks, premier Melbourne has three, as does preliminary finalist Port Adelaide. The Dees will play five of their first six matches at night on free-to-air television.
The other losing preliminary finalist, Geelong, will play plenty of football at its GMHBA Stadium home ground – nine matches in total, including a late-season flurry.
After the past two seasons have been badly disrupted by COVID-19, the AFL has put an emphasis on big Melbourne clubs playing each other at the MCG.
Richmond and Carlton, Richmond and Essendon, Essendon and Collingwood, and Collingwood and Carlton will all play each other twice at the 'Home of Football'.
There are also two Friday night 'double-headers' in the opening nine rounds.
Melbourne and Essendon will kick off round three at 7.20pm AEDT, while the Showdown between Adelaide and Port Adelaide will overlap, with the first bounce one hour later.
In round eight, Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs will have a preliminary final rematch at Adelaide Oval, with Fremantle and North Melbourne starting at Optus Stadium 70 minutes later.
Round 23 also shapes as a tantalising conclusion to the home and away season.
Premiership aspirants Melbourne and Brisbane will play at the Gabba in a match that could have top-four implications, while clashes between Essendon and Richmond, and Carlton and Collingwood will both be played at the MCG.
The return instalment of the Showdown will also take place in the final round, while West Coast will travel to its GMHBA Stadium graveyard to take on Geelong.
The Cats play a total of nine games at their home ground and finish with three of the final four and five of the final eight at their fortress.
AFL executive general manager of clubs and broadcasting Travis Auld said the League wanted to capitalise on fans' appetite to get back watching live football in stadiums.
"For supporters it is a chance to get back to doing what we all love, going to the footy with our family and friends," Auld said.
"On the field, it feels like we are in for another unpredictable season.
"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."