West Coast premiership star Josh Kennedy won’t be risked for the Eagles’ round-one AFL clash with the Brisbane Lions after a disrupted pre-season.
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The highly-anticipated draw for the 2015 AFL season is out and there are some matches and special occasions that are worth not missing.
Each club has now received their draw for what is expected to be another blockbuster of a season, each varying in difficulty depending on how your team fared last year.
The fixture was formed on the basis of the 18 teams’ finishing positions from 2014, from which a formula was developed to determine which teams meet twice.
And of course, there will be big winners and losers from the 2015 fixture, which will feature an unprecedented Anzac Day quadruple-header and no Sunday or Monday night games, both of which have been scrapped after poor reception from the fans.
Let’s look at some of the matches or occasions that you must not miss in 2015.
1. The opening round
As is the case at the beginning of every season, the opening round is one that must not be missed. This year’s opening round will fall on the Easter long weekend for the first time since 2008.
For the first time since 2011, Carlton and Richmond will kick off the season in their own right, while Hawthorn will open its premiership defence in its traditional Easter Monday showdown against bitter rivals the Geelong Cats.
But wait, there’s more.
In a battle between master and apprentice, Rodney Eade’s first match as coach of the Gold Coast Suns will be against Melbourne, whose coach Paul Roos took over as coach of the Sydney Swans after the former was sacked midway through the 2002 season.
James Hird’s first match back as coach of Essendon will see the Bombers make the difficult trip to Sydney, where they will take on last year’s runners-up, the Swans. Pending the ASADA investigation, it could be a depleted Bombers side, making for a potentially ugly result.
Dayne Beams’ first match as a Brisbane Lion will be against his old club Collingwood in a Saturday night grudge match at the Gabba, while Fremantle will face off against Port Adelaide at Patersons Stadium in a rematch of last year’s semi-final.
2. Carlton versus Essendon, Round 3
For the first time since 1992, traditional rivals Carlton and Essendon have been drawn to face each other only once in the regular season. This has come about due to the Blues’ poor 2014 season which saw them finish 13th on the ladder.
The sides’ two meetings last year brought along some contrasting results – the Bombers handed the Blues an 81-point thrashing in Round 3 while the two sides couldn’t be split in the final round.
3. Anzac Day Round
This year’s edition of the Anzac Day Round promises to be one of the biggest yet. The round kicks off with Richmond and Melbourne meeting on the Friday night.
The day will be huge with a capital H. It all starts at 11:00am (AEST) when St Kilda and Carlton lock horns in Wellington, in a match that has been scheduled to start at 1:10pm local time.
That will lead into the traditional showdown between Essendon and Collingwood, in what will mark two decades since the teams started their tradition with a thrilling draw in 1995.
In Canberra at 5:40pm, the Giants will take on the Suns in what is beginning to become somewhat of an annual Anzac Round showdown, this being the third year in a row they have met in this round.
This match will also have some extra meaning with master (Rodney Eade) taking on not only apprentice (Leon Cameron), but also up to three ex-Bulldogs (Ryan Griffen, Callan Ward and Dylan Addison).
Two matches featuring top six teams from last year will cap it all off, with Port Adelaide taking on Hawthorn in a rematch of last year’s thrilling preliminary final at the Adelaide Oval and Fremantle hosting the Sydney Swans in the Len Hall Tribute Match at Patersons Stadium.
The latter match will mark the first time since 2010 that the Dockers have hosted the Swans in a regular season match. The same round will see the Scott brothers, Chris and Brad, face off at Simonds Stadium, when the Geelong Cats face North Melbourne.
4. Mick Malthouse breaks the all-time coaching record, Round 5
Round 5 will see Carlton coach Mick Malthouse break the record, held by Jock McHale with 713, against the club he coached to four grand finals over twelve years between 2000 and 2011.
The occasion will add to the spice of the first of the two clashes between the huge Victorian clubs – and has the potential to attract a large crowd in excess of 70,000.
5. Super Saturday, Round 6
The Mother’s Day Round in the second weekend of May will see an unprecedented six matches played on what has been dubbed as Super Saturday – and there will be a lot of highlights to look forward to.
North Melbourne will play its first match in Hobart for the season, when they host last year’s finalists Richmond in the feature match on Channel Seven, while later in the afternoon, the GWS Giants will welcome premiers Hawthorn to their Spotless Stadium backyard for the very first time.
To top it all off, Paul Roos and his Melbourne Demons will host the Sydney Swans at the MCG at night, a decade after he led his old side to a 72-year drought-breaking premiership in 2005.
The post-Mother’s Day clash between St Kilda and Carlton has been scrapped; they will have already met two weeks earlier in Wellington on Anzac Day.
6. Grand final rematches, Rounds 8 and 16
This year’s grand finalists, Hawthorn and the Sydney Swans, will renew hostilities twice in 2015 – starting with the grand final rematch in the Hawks’ backyard in Round 8.
This year’s showpiece match saw the Hawks run roughshod over not just the Sydney Swans, but also Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, who was on the receiving end of the “kiss of death” from Hawks captain Luke Hodge.
And if that wasn’t enough, the two powerhouses will be at each other again at ANZ Stadium eight weeks later – a perfect chance for the Swans to extract some revenge if they lose this first encounter at the MCG.
7. The Boyd-Griffen Cup, Round 9
Forget the twice-annual Sydney Derbies, the GWS Giants’ Round 9 showdown against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Saturday May 30 will be the ultimate grudge match of the year – and for very good reason.
Former Bulldogs captain Griffen dropped a massive bombshell during trade week when he informed the club he wanted to be traded to the Giants. That led to Brendan McCartney later resigning as Bulldogs coach.
Griffen got his wish and moved to Sydney’s west, while 2013 number one draft pick, Tom Boyd, went the reverse direction after only a handful of games at the Giants.
What’s guaranteed is that the loudest boos will be reserved for Griffen, and not only that, Old Dogs Callan Ward, Dylan Addison and coach Leon Cameron will also face off against their old club.
The Giants’ acquisition of those said players prompted the club to promote them as being “Lost Dogs Home”, mocking the Western Bulldogs’ #bemorebulldog hashtag with #belessbulldog .
8. Malceski and Eade versus Swans, Rounds 10 and 23
When the Sydney Swans descend onto the Gold Coast on the first Saturday of winter, not only will they be facing off against the man who kicked them to premiership glory in 2012, but also their old coach Rodney Eade.
Following the Swans’ humiliating grand final loss to Hawthorn in September, Nick Malceski exercised his free agency rights and left the club to sign a three-year contract with the Gold Coast Suns.
There, he will be coached by former Swans coach Eade (though he was not at the club when Malceski made his AFL debut in 2005), and in addition, the AFL’s two biggest defectors (Gary Ablett and Lance Franklin) will again be the headline act.
The corresponding clash last year drew the second-biggest crowd at Metricon Stadium in 2014 with 21,354 fans, and was (at the time) the highest attended match at the redeveloped ground since the end of the Suns’ first season in 2011.
9. Ryder versus Bombers, Round 17
Essendon fans, mark down Saturday, July 25 into your diaries right now – because you will get the chance to boo Paddy Ryder when he and Port Adelaide try to strike the Etihad Stadium roof open.
Ryder announced his intentions to leave the Bombers at the end of last season as he sought to escape the ongoing ASADA saga. He nominated Port Adelaide as his choice of club after also negotiating with the Brisbane Lions and GWS Giants.
Essendon will also seek to keep their recent dominance of Port Adelaide going – they have won their last four meetings against the club after previously losing six in a row between 2005 and 2010.
10. Jarrad Waite versus Carlton, Round 18
Tensions are set to escalate when Carlton and North Melbourne do battle on the first day of August, with new Kangaroo Jarrad Waite to face off against his old club at Etihad Stadium.
The future of Waite, a long-time Carlton servant, was one of many issues which plagued the club’s 2014 season, and the inevitable occurred when he announced that he would leave the Blues to join North Melbourne.
Waite will join a club whose premiership window is at the very least half-open, after the Kangaroos came from sixth to reach the preliminary final. On the back of this phenomenal effort, there will be no excuses for Brad Scott’s men not to take that one step up in 2015.
11. All the intra-state derbies
And of course, there will be up to eight intra-state derbies in total that must not be missed in 2015, with two each of the QClashes, Sydney Derbies, Showdowns and Western Derbies to take place during the season.
The Gold Coast Suns will play the Brisbane Lions at Metricon Stadium in Round 5, and the Gabba in Round 19.
Having knocked off big brother for the first time in Round 1 this year, the GWS Giants will be keen to repeat the dose in 2015, but the club will have to wait until Round 21 to host their home derby, with the first fixture at the SCG in Round 3.
The two Showdowns between Adelaide and Port Adelaide will be must-sees for the locals, also likewise for the Western Derbies between Fremantle and the West Coast Eagles.
Those are some of the matches and grudge showdowns that you will not want to miss in 2015.
For many AFL fans, the countdown has already begun to Thursday, April 2, when the season will open between Carlton and Richmond at the MCG.