Fixture winners and losers: See who your club plays twice
Who are the big winners of the just-released 2021 AFL draw?
The Cats not only get to return to their fortress at GMHBA Stadium, but play three straight home games to finish the season - against the Giants, St Kilda and Melbourne.
Geelong will also host Essendon on its own dunghill for the first time in 28 years. The Cats have nine games at GMHBA and six at the MCG.
They leave the state just five times, including a clash in Hobart against North Melbourne. Geelong plays North twice, as do the Bulldogs.
The Blues leave Melbourne once for the first 10 rounds - a trip to the Gold Coast - and only five interstate games, including two in Sydney and one in Adelaide.
Collingwood has 14 games at the MCG and leave the state just five times - once to Perth and once to Brisbane.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have avoided double-ups against any of the top-four teams from this year, with return matches against the Saints, Bulldogs and Collingwood as well as the Dockers and 2020 wooden spooner Adelaide.
Kayo is your ticket to the best sport streaming Live & On-Demand. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Which team looks to have copped it in the neck?
If you don't like playing Richmond twice, then the draw is less than ideal for finalists St Kilda, Geelong and Brisbane who all cop a double dose of the Tigers, alongside GWS and Hawthorn. Actually St Kilda shapes as an early loser in the ratings lotto - the Saints having been scheduled off Broadway in terms of TV exposure for five of the six opening matches.
St Kilda plays the Tigers twice and also has double-ups against top-four sides Geelong and Port Adelaide. The Saints' other return matches are against West Coast (fifth) and Sydney (16th). They do have a Thursday night clash against Richmond in Round 5. The Tigers will travel to Perth twice after the mid-season bye, for match-ups against West Coast (Round 14) and Fremantle (Round 20), but have 14 games at the MCG and two at Marvel Stadium. The Bulldogs have two games in Perth within four weeks - Rounds 12 and 15 - while Gold Coast and North also make two trips west.
What derbies can we look forward to?
Interstate teams can lap up the hometown rivalry as West Coast-Fremantle, Adelaide-Port Adelaide, Sydney-GWS and Brisbane-Suns have all been drawn to play twice.
When will traded players get to play their old club?
Bulldog Adam Treloar faces the Magpies in Round 1, new Kangaroo Jaidyn Stephenson meets Collingwood in Round 8, Adam Saad will join the Blues against Essendon in Round 7, while Brisbane recruit Joe Daniher tackles his old Bombers at the Gabba in Round 5. Big Cat Jeremy Cameron has the longest wait - Round 21 before Geelong takes on the Giants.
Will there be a footy frenzy this year?
It's doubtful unless COVID again takes serious hold of the season. But five-day breaks have once again been introduced, subject to parameters agreed with the AFLPA, to provide the best flexibility around Thursday and Friday night scheduling.
When do we see a rematch of the Grand Final sides?
Not until Round 8. The Tigers will unfurl their 2019 and 2020 premiership flags at the MCG for the season opener against Carlton. They will then host just two more home games across the opening six rounds at the MCG before taking on the Cats on their famous turf.
What grudge matches can we look forward to to kick-off the season?
The league has tried to schedule at least one clash between arch enemies in the opening six rounds, including Essendon v Hawthorn (Round 1), Carlton v Collingwood (Round 2), Geelong v Hawthorn (Round 3), Sydney v GWS Giants (Round 5), GWS Giants v Western Bulldogs (Round 6) and Collingwood v Essendon (Round 7)
What are the key selling points of the draw?
Football is becoming a four-day weekend across March and April, with five Thursday night matches in the first five weeks. Stretching the weekend will equate to great exposure for clubs as 14 of the 18 teams will feature in marquee Thursday and/or Friday timeslots across the opening six weeks.
Are there any AFL-AFLW double headers on the program?
Two across the first two weeks. In Round 1, the Brisbane-Sydney clash at The Gabba on Saturday night (March 20) will follow Brisbane-Collingwood in the AFLW. In Round Two, it will be a true double-header - Gold Coast v North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium in the men's and women's competitions.
What is happening on Anzac Day?
Because it falls on a Sunday, the league has scheduled three matches: the Hawks will host the Crows at Launceston, Collingwood will tackle Essendon at the MCG in the traditional Anzac Day blockbuster, while Port Adelaide and St Kilda will round out the day at Adelaide Oval in a 6.20pm kick-off.
WHO DOES YOUR CLUB PLAY TWICE IN 2021?
Play twice: North Melbourne, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, West Coast, Melbourne
Play twice: Collingwood, Fremantle, Geelong, Gold Coast, Richmond
Play twice: Collingwood, Fremantle, Gold Coast, GWS Giants, Port Adelaide
Play twice: Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Essendon, Port Adelaide, West Coast
Play twice: Collingwood, GWS Giants, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Sydney
Play twice: Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Hawthorn, Sydney, West Coast
Play twice: Brisbane Lions, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda
Play twice: Brisbane Lions, Carlton, North Melbourne, Sydney, Western Bulldogs
Play twice: Carlton, Essendon, Melbourne, Richmond, Sydney
Play twice: Adelaide, Essendon, Fremantle, Melbourne, Richmond
Play twice: Adelaide, Geelong, GWS Giants, Hawthorn, Western Bulldogs
Play twice: Adelaide, Essendon, Geelong, Gold Coast, Western Bulldogs
Play twice: St Kilda, Collingwood, Western Bulldogs, Carlton and Adelaide
Play twice: Hawthorn, St Kilda, Geelong, GWS, Brisbane
Play twice: West Coast, Richmond, Port Adelaide, Geelong, Sydney
Play twice: Essendon, GWS, Gold Coast, Fremantle, St Kilda
Play twice: Western Bulldogs, St Kilda, Collingwood, Fremantle, Adelaide
Play twice: North Melbourne, Melbourne, Gold Coast, West Coast, Port Adelaide
AFL WON'T RULE OUT HUBS FOR 2021 SEASON
Hubs and a compressed fixture remain on the table for next year as the AFL continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic that wreaked havoc on the 2020 season.
The league on Monday released the fixture for Rounds 1 to 23, but has only provided times and dates for the opening six rounds of the season.
It will update the second block of rounds once the season begins while monitoring the ongoing threat of the pandemic.
The league did consider implementing a complete floating fixture before deciding against it because of club and fan concerns.
While many players would be hoping to see the back of hubs in 2021, AFL fixtures boss Travis Auld said he could not rule out a repeat of what we saw this year.
That includes another footy frenzy with games played every day of the week, which proved popular with fans and more popular with players than the league had anticipated.
"We've certainly got options in the sense we know we can put clubs into those high performance centres or hubs," Auld said.
"We know we can compress the season if we need to.
"At the moment we've released a fixture based on a standard format of 22 games over 23 weeks.
"It's our intention to execute that, but it would be silly not to go in knowing we might need options at points in time."
The 2021 season begins with the traditional clash between reigning premiers Richmond and Carlton at the MCG on March 18, as men's football returns to Victoria for the first time since the pandemic forced relocation in June.
Auld said the AFL did not consider tinkering with the season opener.
"Any game that can average close to 80,000 I think deserves to hold their spot," he said.
The senior AFL executive said the league did not yet know what percentage of the 100,000 seats at the MCG would be available to the public.
"I think we're trying to get to the highest level we can but taking into account the health and wellbeing of everyone, including our players but also the community," Auld said.
"I think it was proven in 2020 that we don't want to push those boundaries.
"It's important to work closely with the states and the chief health officers of every state to get to a level where everyone feels comfortable.
"That may be different across different states and we may need protocols adjusted to suit the circumstances of each state, but that work is well underway."
Originally published as Fixture winners and losers: See who your club plays twice