ALL 18 teams will head to South Australia for round five of the 2023 Toyota AFL Premiership Season for a four-day festival of footy.
The AFL confirmed on Friday that all nine matches of the round will be played in SA from Thursday, April 13 to Sunday, April 16, which coincides with the school holidays.
It will be the first time that an entire round of an AFL premiership season has been played in the same location, and it extends the season out to 24 rounds in total and 23 matches per side.
Exact timings, match-ups and venues will be officially announced at a later date, but AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the weekend would likely involve six matches at Adelaide Oval; one each on the Thursday and Friday nights before double-headers on the Saturday and Sunday.
He said the remaining three games will be played at suburban grounds and "potentially a regional venue". The Barossa Valley has been canvassed as a possibility by the South Australian government.
McLachlan said it's unlikely a Showdown between Adelaide and Port Adelaide will be part of the weekend.
GET READY, SA The venues in line to host during the festival of footy
Entry to competing club matches will be free for all club and AFL members with tickets to be on sale once the full 2023 fixture is announced in the coming weeks.
SA Premier Peter Malinauskas said the local SANFL competition will have a bye round to ensure maximum attendance at the AFL games.
McLachlan said the competition would look to move the concept around the country in coming years.
"We are looking forward to not only bringing nine great matches for premiership points to South Australia, but also a party-like atmosphere, filled with fan activations, family-friendly events, music, entertainment, community engagement, all designed to bring the city to life over the four days," McLachlan said.
"Over the pandemic-challenged years, South Australia played an important role in the survival of our game, and we are so pleased to be able to bring this major football event into the state.
"School holidays are a great opportunity for families, and we will work with the SA Government to ensure we will have free experiences and activations at matches and around the city for all footy fans to come together.
"Our clubs, our players and coaches are excited to come together, put on a great show and engage with the local community and grassroots footy, all while showcasing the great state of South Australia."
The concept of playing an entire round in one place stretches as far back as 2007, when England's rugby league's competition held its first 'Magic Weekend' in Cardiff. The NRL has held a 'Magic Round' in Queensland since 2019.
McLachlan said the idea for the AFL was sparked by the competitiveness of pre-season matches last year, and said the financial windfall of holding an extra round would benefit players and all 18 clubs.
"Our commitment to the players and the clubs is that the majority of the money will wash through into all 18 clubs, not just the home-and-away part of that," he said. "So each club will still have 11 home-and-away games and then these will be games where they will actually share the proceeds.
"The soft cap and the salary cap will accomodate all that. The details are being worked through.
"(The idea) came out of last year when the pre-season got shorter and the clubs were bearing all of the cost of playing in main venues and they'd just treat it like a home-and-away game. Coming into the opening round, players were injured, they were suspended, they were right in it.
"So if we were playing a pre-season game like a home-and-away game, (we asked) can we create an asset that actually has a huge benefit for our supporters, for our game, and for a state and a city?
"I think we've taken what was happening in empty venues in a practice game or pre-season game and transformed it into what I am optimistic will be a huge initiative for business and South Australia, but also nationally and for our game. Hopefully it is an asset."
18 TEAMS, ONE STATE AFL confirms extra round in 2023
Premier Malinauskas expects the round to be a tourism bonanza for the state.
"I can't wait to welcome fans from across the country who will get to witness a truly unique round of footy and also experience everything South Australia has to offer – our city, our world-class wineries and other incredible tourism assets," he said.
"This will help fill hotel rooms, restaurants, pubs and clubs, which is exactly what our economy needs as we emerge from the pandemic, particularly our tourism and hospitality sector which has done it tough over the past couple of years.
"And for South Australian footy fans, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience footy like never before.
"Rest assured, we are going to put on a show footy fans will never forget."