On the eve of the 2020 fixture release, footy fans are anticipating what the upcoming year might look like for their club.
Teams are always hoping for fewer interstate games, favourable opponents in important stretches of the season and the hope of cracking into the top eight come September.
But no matter what the fixture looks like, there is always the guarantee of blockbuster games throughout the year that get every supporter buzzing on the weekend. These games just mean a little bit more than your standard home-and-away match and draw the biggest viewing numbers of the year.
It could be enemies doing battle such as the South Australian showdown, former players returning to face their old clubs or good old-fashioned rivalries like Geelong and Hawthorn.
But some games will stand out from the rest in 2020 and these are the top five games every AFL fan should pencil into their calendar tomorrow.
West Coast vs Geelong: Tim Kelly against his old side
This one was fairly obvious after Kelly got his wish to return home to Perth during this year’s trade period. After drafting him in 2017, Kelly spent two years running around Kardinia Park in the blue and white hoops, quickly becoming one of the elite midfielders in the competition.
After an outstanding 2019 campaign that saw the superstar finish in the top five in the Brownlow and earn his first All Australian blazer, Kelly will join forces with the likes of Luke Shuey and Andrew Gaff to create one of the premier midfield combos in the league.
West Coast will hope for a date with Geelong in Perth but no matter what, this match-up will provide fireworks and an enjoyable spectacle for neutral supporters. This match-up had already been a good one recently with the teams splitting their past six games at three wins apiece, so adding the Kelly factor should make this one of the most anticipated games of 2020.
Adelaide vs Port Adelaide: Showdown rivalry resumes
It was an unsuccessful 2019 campaign for both the South Australian sides, missing September action in topsy-turvy seasons for both clubs.
One thing that fails to change is the build-up and excitement surrounding a Showdown match-up. Nothing quite beats the battle for bragging rights inside the state, with both teams experiencing success across the past two seasons, splitting the four games with two wins each.
Guaranteed two Showdown clashes this year, Port Adelaide and Adelaide will undoubtedly be eyeing off these clashes when the fixture is released. Packing out Adelaide Oval with angry South Australian footy fans, the atmosphere at the Showdown is unrivalled and will prove an exciting spectacle for all fans in 2020.
Despite the list transition Adelaide are going through, you can be certain that stars like Rory Sloane and the Crouch brothers will be attacking the footy harder than ever in the Showdown. Port Adelaide will boast stars of their own, such as Robbie Gray, who will be gunning for his sixth Showdown Medal, providing another enticing clash to look forward to in 2020.
Collingwood vs Richmond: The gift that keeps on giving
We were denied this match-up in the 2019 grand final after an inspired GWS preliminary final performance, but no doubt this will prove to be one of the blockbuster clashes of next year. The rivalry stretches way back to their five grand final clashes in the 1920s and has developed over the decades.
The rivalry peaked in the 2018 preliminary final when Collingwood caused a boilover to knock off the heavily fancied Richmond side, making their way into the grand final to face West Coast and abruptly ending the Tigers season.
The reason this rivalry is as special as it is comes down the massive crowd numbers it draws no matter where the teams stand on the ladder, the last five clashes all drawing over 70,000 people to the MCG.
With stars like Scott Pendlebury, Dustin Martin, Tom Lynch and Brodie Grundy going head to head, this rivalry is sure to provide footy fans with a memorable clash in 2020.
Essendon vs Sydney: The Daniher debacle
Providing us with one of the biggest off-season talking points was Joe Daniher’s quest to get to Sydney. After requesting a trade, Essendon held firm on Daniher’s contract and refused to give him up for what Sydney were prepared to offer, keeping him in the red and black through 2020 and causing some tension between Daniher and the two clubs.
This is one reason why this match-up will be worth watching in 2020. Sydney were excited at the prospect of the 25-year-old Daniher potentially being the key forward replacement for Lance Franklin in the coming years and they will certainly be disappointed with the failure to close the deal.
So when this clash comes around, expect words to fly around the ground and watch for the reception the Swans give Daniher. Daniher should be keen to put on a good show for the Sydney players and coaches, so expect to see some fireworks in what could potentially be an exciting clash of two relatively young sides.
Not only that, but these two clubs have provided entertaining contests over the past three seasons with three of their past five encounters being decided by ten points or less. With a host of young talents flying around the field, watch for this game to be a smoky for one of the better match-ups of 2020.
Hawthorn vs Geelong: Renewing the rivalry
It’s clear this fixture doesn’t provide the same enticement that it did earlier in the decade. The 2008 grand final, the Kennett Curse and the famous 1989 grand final sparked a few of the best encounters ever seen on the footy field.
This rivalry seemed to peak in the 2013 preliminary final and hasn’t recaptured the same flare since. But watch for the rivalry to recapture its ferocity in 2020.
Everybody seems to have forgotten about Tom Mitchell, which will provide Hawthorn an extremely underrated midfield next to emerging stars James Worpel and Jaeger O’Meara. Put them against Geelong champions Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett and this match-up could prove to be as mouth-watering as it was ten years ago.
Powerhouse forwards Tom Hawkins and Jon Patton will go head to head at opposite ends of the grounds and young talents like Gryan Miers and Mitch Lewis will provide a level of excitement that hasn’t been seen in this rivalry for years.
With hostilities set to resume on their traditional Easter Monday time slot, prepare to kick your feet up and enjoy this game as old foes go toe-to-toe with one another once again.
So lookout for these five games no matter when they are scheduled when the fixture is released – you won’t want to miss the action in these blockbusters.