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Thursday, November 1, 2018

AFL fixture 2019: Collingwood, West Coast set for twin grand final rematches

Runners-up Collingwood have been handed a blockbuster 2019 draw as part of the league’s focus on “optimising” Thursday and Friday night football as the centrepiece of each home-and-away round next season.
Premiers West Coast were rewarded for their success this year with three matches in those standalone time slots, up from only two in 2018.
But it is their vanquished grand final foe Collingwood that will be front and centre throughout the year.
The two sides will meet at the MCG in round three (Saturday night) before playing a return match on a Friday night at Optus Stadium in round 17.
The Magpies will play a total seven Friday nights, plus two Thursday nights and the standalone afternoon blockbuster against Essendon on Anzac Day.
“We want to reward those teams that are playing really good football,” AFL fixtures boss Travis Auld said.
“When it’s a team like Collingwood, such a big club with such a big supporter base, you’ve got to take advantage of that.
“They’ve got their Thursdays and Fridays, they’ve got a couple of marquee slots.
“Essendon is another one. There’s a lot of expectation around Essendon coming into next season and they’ve been rewarded.”
Fremantle are one of three clubs without a Thursday or Friday night fixture, along with Gold Coast and St Kilda.
The poorly performed Blues have been almost entirely bumped ‘off-Broadway’.
They take on Richmond in the traditional season opener, but that is their only standalone fixture.
“Our Friday night games, in particular, were not as strong as we’d have like last season, some of which we owned at the time of releasing last year’s fixture,” Auld said.
“We understand the need for strong Thursday and Friday night games to maximize attendance and TV audiences, and to build momentum into each round.”
Rounds five and six will be a footy marathon, with games on 10 of 11 days starting on Easter Thursday.
Round 23 will remain a floating fixture before the finals.
The first Western Derby will be a West Coast home match in round four, with the return Fremantle home derby in round 16.
Both will be played on Saturday nights at Optus Stadium.
The Dockers will host the Western Bulldogs in their annual Anzac commemoration, the Len Hall game, at Optus Stadium on a Saturday night in round six.
Auld said the AFL had not yet set a start time for the 2019 grand final – which remained in its traditional afternoon slot this year – and had given no consideration to a mooted three-game grand final series.