Sunday night footy will return to the schedule.
Sunday night footy will return to the schedule.

Sunday night footy makes a comeback

THE AFL will again dabble with Sunday night football early in the 2019 season, using the time difference to hand Queensland fans a 5.40pm contest.

The AFL's fixture will be released on Wednesday, but it was revealed earlier this month as many as 12 Thursday night games will be the centrepiece of the new broadcast-friendly draw.

A series of five-day breaks handed to clubs - approved by the AFLPA and requiring changes to the collective bargaining committee - will allow the league unprecedented fixture flexibility.

It means the league can not only play more Thursday night games, but also supercharge Friday nights by at times playing a big club in a Sunday game then scheduling them the next Friday night.

In another bold move, early in the year when Melbourne is still in daylight savings mode the league will schedule a West Australian team against a Victorian team in a Sunday 3.40pm Perth game.

It will mean a 5.40pm starting time in Victoria, allowing Fox Footy to assess the ratings of a game that would finish at about 8.20pm on Sunday night.

The league scheduled a disastrous Carlton vs Collingwood clash on a Sunday night in 2014, drawing just 40,921 fans, and quickly abandoned Sunday night games as a concept.

But with Sunday night drawing the biggest viewing audience of the weekend it will allow the league to assess whether it is worth handing Fox Footy more of those timeslots.

North Melbourne is expected to play a Good Friday game against either Essendon or Richmond given the tight turnaround before the following week's Anzac Eve and Anzac Day games.

Essendon is the more likely opponent given it has a six-day break compared to Richmond's five days, handing it another marquee game alongside Dreamtime at the 'G and Anzac Day.

Brisbane is confident the league will fixture a Good Friday eve contest against Collingwood, which would draw a bumper attendance against the Pies - and former skipper Dayne Beams - on April 18.

Jaidyn Stephenson
Jaidyn Stephenson

Richmond's season is likely to kick off with a pair of Thursday night games as part of a block of four early Thursday games within the early weeks of the season.

The Tigers take on Carlton in the season opener and are then expected to take on one of Round 1 combatants Geelong or Collingwood in the Round 2 Thursday night game.

Carlton has been given a Thursday night game in Round 1 but expects a heavy dose of Sunday afternoon matches for the rest of the season after failing to shine with a schedule of prime time games next year.

AFL fixturing boss Travis Auld has been unapologetic about the league attempting to play a series of blockbuster clashes on Friday nights featuring 2019 contenders and high-drawing teams.