Heading into the season, I have identified 15 games during the home-and-away season that will be the highlights of the season. For their own reasons, these are the contests not to be missed in 2014.
Whatever else you have got on, make sure to cancel it and be by the sidelines or in front of the TV for these clashes.
Round 2 – Richmond v Carlton (MCG)
The first look at footy at the G in 2014 is here. And after last year’s final loss, Richmond will be hungry to account for Carlton early in the year.
Round 2 – Essendon v Hawthorn (Etihad Stadium)
Matches between these two sides don’t need any promotion, but this one will have a bit of extra spice given Alastair Clarkson’s comments in the past few days. And as we know, these are two sides who don’t like each other.
Round 3 – Hawthorn v Fremantle (MCG)
Hawthorn again, this time, the grand final replay of 2013. The Hawks won the replay in 2013 against the Swans, and this looms as a mouthwatering Friday night contest.
Round 3 – Adelaide v Sydney (Adelaide Oval)
The next day, battle lines will be drawn at the newly-developed Adelaide Oval. The return of Kurt Tippett against his old club and a spectacle to be seen. Sorry Kurt, but there’s no hiding from this one.
Round 4 – Richmond v Collingwood (MCG)
Both got a taste of finals last year, but each were bundled out unexpectedly in the first week. Traditional rivals, expect a huge crowd and tremendous atmosphere when they meet on a Friday night.
Round 5 – Sydney v Fremantle (SCG)
These two played out the only draw in 2013, both also went deep into the finals, and is was Fremantle who defeated the Swans in the preliminary final.
Two of the best in the business who will be eager to claim a flag this year. A game to look forward to.
Round 5 – Geelong v Hawthorn (MCG)
Easter Monday football, and we know the quality of games these two normally produce. The Hawks finally broke the ‘Kennett Curse’ in last year’s preliminary final. The Cats will want to start another curse, beginning here.
Round 7 – Carlton v Collingwood (MCG)
Last year it was Mick returning against the old mob, this year it’s Daisy. There has never been much love between these sides, none more so than this occasion. Expect a big one under the Friday night lights.
Round 8 – Sydney v Hawthorn (ANZ Stadium)
Yes speaking of players against their old side, is there a bigger one than this? 2012 grand finalists hit out on a Friday night in Round 8, and of course Buddy will be playing. This time, in a red and white jumper.
Round 10 – Geelong v North Melbourne (Etihad Stadium)
Another Friday nighter. These sides generally produce high scoring, electric contests under the roof. Both striving for top four honours, the Scott brothers will go at it again.
Oh, and can we make sure we close the roof this time?
Round 11 – Sydney v Geelong (SCG)
A big Thursday night contest between these two. Prelim finalists last year who will consider themselves a chance. Not bad viewing for a Thursday night.
Round 13 – Richmond v Fremantle (MCG)
Bit of a left-field choice, but I’m sticking my neck out now and saying it will be a ripper. Massive game in it’s own right.
Round 15 – Geelong v Essendon (Etihad Stadium)
Mark Thompson and Paul Chapman team up to tackle the Cats in what will be a hot Friday night encounter. Expect a full house for this mid-season grudge match.
Round 18 – Hawthorn v Sydney (MCG)
Buddy’s second hitout against his former club. Yes, I did include their first game, but this is at the MCG, so expect a less than warm reception from the Hawthorn fans.
Round 22 – GWS Giants v Collingwood (Giants Stadium)
You’d expect the Pies to win, and they probably will. But this clash will carry some real nastiness as Heath Shaw faces his former teammates sporting the orange and grey.
I’d reckon Collingwood will show no mercy.
Well they’re my 15 matches that go in the ‘must watch’ category for this season.
Many of them early on, in the first half of the year, and also many on the big stage that is Friday night football.