Reigning premiers Richmond have been rewarded for their dominant 2019 season, with the AFL handing the Tigers a league-leading six Friday night clashes – as well as two Thursday nighters – in 2020.
The reveal of next year’s draw also sees minor premiers Geelong feature on Friday night six times, while fellow losing preliminary finalists Collingwood and, surprisingly, the Western Bulldogs get five matches in the same timeslot.
Carlton, on the other hand, have been booted off Fridays altogether, receiving just two Thursday night matches as their primetime allotment for next season. Melbourne (three) and Sydney (two) have had their primetime allocations slashed following disappointing 2019 campaigns.
Runners-up, Greater Western Sydney, will only get two primetime games – both on the Friday – while Brisbane’s stunning rise last season sees them get two games each on Thursday and Friday.
Fremantle and Gold Coast are the only two clubs who won’t feature at all on Thursday or Friday nights next year.
As far as regional games go, North Queensland has surprisingly been left off the fixture altogether. Townsville’s Riverway Stadium and Cairns’ Cazaly’s Stadium have both held several matches over the last few seasons, but won’t in 2020.
Hawthorn and North Melbourne will, as usual, take four home games each to Tasmania, the Giants will play three games in Canberra and the Bulldogs will go to Ballarat twice. Melbourne will play just one home game in the Northern Territory – in Alice Springs – with Gold Coast taking over their Darwin game. St Kilda ‘hosting’ Port Adelaide in Shanghai is the only other game to be played in 2020 at an irregular venue.
There will also be plenty of early reunions, with up to five players set to face off against their old clubs inside the first three weeks of the season. Grant Birchall will face the Hawks for the first time as a Lion in Round 1, in what will be Brisbane’s first clash against Hawthorn at the MCG since 2012.
Round 2 sees Adam Tomlinson welcome his old side to the MCG as a member of the Demons, while Joe Daniher will get a taste of the SCG that Friday night following his failed attempt to move to Sydney.
Round 3 will see Tim Kelly play the Cats for the first time – in the comforts of his new home ground – while Ed Langdon and Dan Butler will do battle with Fremantle and Richmond as a Demon and Saint, respectively.
The rumours of a twilight Anzac Day clash have been confirmed, with Collingwood and Essendon set to clash at the latest time yet for the fixture of 4:20pm. With Anzac Day falling on a Saturday, four games will take place – allowing the twilight fixture to be played on its lonesome and late enough in the day for people to attend other ceremonies.
The bye rounds will prove controversial once again, with the AFL electing to play Thursday night matches in two of them, meaning six matches are spread across four days. The Sunday matches in both of those weeks are set to be blockbusters, with Adelaide taking on Port Adelaide in a Round 13 showdown and Richmond tackling West Coast at the MCG in Round 14. Unfortunately, neither match will be on free-to-air TV.