In part 1 of this series I nominated the players likely to achieve personal historic or traditional milestones in 2020.
The draw for the 2020 AFL season has been released, and there are loads of highlights and matches that fans can look forward to.
As the defending premiers, Richmond will be the team with the biggest target on their heads with seventeen other sides attempting to end their reign next year.
Richmond and Collingwood are among the big winners from the 2020 fixture, while the Brisbane Lions have been rewarded for their stunning rise up the ladder with a return to prime-time football as the Gabba will host two Thursday night and two Friday night matches.
There are also a number of grudge matches lined up for 2020. None more so than when Joe Daniher faces what could be his future club in Round 2 after failing to negotiate a trade out of Essendon during the trade period.
Here are the biggest rounds, matches and moments that fans can look forward to in 2020.
1. The opening round
As always, you cannot miss the opening round of any new season.
Richmond and Carlton will once again kick off proceedings with the unfurling of the Tigers’ premiership flag prior to the first bounce of the new season.
Damien Hardwick’s side won their 2019 flag in the most devastating way possible. They dismantled the GWS Giants by 89 points to halt their eight-year rise.
For the Blues, it will be one of two Thursday nights in season 2020 (the other is a home game against Essendon a fortnight later). David Teague’s side will be kept off-Broadway for the majority of the year without a single Friday night matchup.
The Western Bulldogs will open the season at Marvel Stadium the following evening, hosting Collingwood in what will be their first home game against a Victorian club in Round 1 since 2010, which was also against the Pies.
After being thrashed by the Giants in Round 1 last season, Essendon will host Fremantle on Saturday at Marvel before the Adelaide Crows toast Rory Sloane’s 200th game when they open the season at the Adelaide Oval for the second straight year.
It will also be the first game at the helm of the Crows for new coach Matthew Nicks who will come up against the side he played 175 games for between 1996 and 2005, the Sydney Swans.
Later that evening, the GWS Giants will roll out the orange carpet when they welcome the Geelong Cats’ women’s and men’s teams to Giants Stadium for a historic AFLW/AFL doubleheader.
The women’s side will open the evening with their Round 7 clash at 5:10pm before the men’s side look to begin their quest for redemption against last year’s minor premiers at 7:25pm.
The other match on Saturday night sees Port Adelaide make the trip to the holiday strip for the first time since 2016 when they face wooden spoon-winning Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium.
On Sunday, North Melbourne and St Kilda will clash at Marvel before Hawthorn welcome the Brisbane Lions to the MCG later in the day. Finally, the West Coast Eagles will close out the round hosting the Melbourne Demons at Optus Stadium.
2. The Joe Daniher Cup (Round 2)
If wantaway Bomber Joe Daniher had his way, his first home game in Swans colours would’ve been against Essendon at the SCG in a Friday night blockbuster.
But the 25-year-old failed to find his way to the Harbour City during trade week and will now remain at Windy Hill at least until his contract expires at the end of next season, after which he will become a free agent.
Nonetheless, Daniher can expect to be the centre of attention when the Bombers travel to face the Swans in Sydney for the 25th time in the past 26 seasons dating back to 1995 (this includes two finals, in 1996 and 2017, both of which the Bombers lost).
It will also be the first time the Bombers step foot onto the SCG since the controversial finish to the corresponding match last season when David Myers’ set shot after the final siren fell short and Dane Rampe was caught on camera tampering with the goalpost.
— 7AFL (@7AFL) May 10, 2019
Adding fuel to the fire, the Bombers have not won at the SCG in over a decade and would love to put that hoodoo behind them before hosting the return leg at Marvel Stadium in Round 22.
3. The Giants-Bulldogs rivalry resumes (Round 3 and 13)
The Giants will play the Western Bulldogs in what will be a rematch of last season’s elimination final.
While the Giants did the damage on the scoreboard winning by 58 points, all the talk was about Toby Greene’s treatment of Marcus Bontempelli that sent the GWS hard nut straight to the judiciary.
— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) September 9, 2019
This will set the fuse for what should be two massive clashes between the two clubs (the latter being Round 13) who both represent their respective cities’ western suburbs and share some history.
It was also in Canberra in 2017 when Greene came under fire for putting his boot to the face of Caleb Daniel – an incident that resulted in a one-match suspension.
The 26-year-old can also expect to be public enemy number one in Round 13 at Marvel Stadium when these clubs meet again – a game that will mark the Giants’ 200th match in the AFL.
Round 3 will also showcase Tim Kelly taking on his former side at Optus Stadium, and Fremantle playing their only game at the MCG for the season against the Demons.
4. Easter Round
Once again, the Brisbane Lions and Collingwood will kick off Easter Round (Round 4) when they face off on Thursday evening at the Gabba.
The Lions will want to put in a much better effort this time around after the Pies thrashed them by 62 points in the corresponding match last season. It was a tough pill to swallow for Brisbane who were playing in front of their largest home crowd for nearly a decade.
Round 4 will be one of four prime-time matches Chris Fagan’s side will play on either a Thursday or Friday night in 2020 – a reward for the club’s dazzling ascent to the top end of the ladder last season.
The following day, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will face off in the annual “Kick for the Kids” match at Marvel Stadium before Port Adelaide welcome the West Coast Eagles to the Adelaide Oval in the first Good Friday match to be played in the City of Churches.
After spending the first three rounds at home, the Adelaide Crows will travel for the first time when they face Richmond at the MCG, while Essendon will take on the Giants at Marvel – a matchup and venue that saw the Bombers triumph with some last-minute heroics last season.
The Easter Round then culminates in the annual Easter Monday clash between the Geelong Cats and Hawthorn at the home of football.
5. Anzac Round
As always, Anzac Round won’t be one to miss. The round will commence with Melbourne and Richmond in the Anzac Day Eve match for the sixth consecutive year.
Despite a disastrous 2019 season which saw the Dees fall from preliminary finalists to near-wooden spooners, Simon Goodwin’s side have managed to secure three Friday night matches. This will be the only one they play as the home side, however.
Given Richmond are the defending premiers, you can bet that this match will attract one of the Dees’ highest home crowd of the season outside of their Queen’s Birthday clash against Collingwood, which they will also host in 2020.
After Melbourne won the first two Anzac Eve contests, the Tigers have bounced back to win the last three, which has coincided with their re-emergence as a heavyweight club.
Anzac Day next year will fall on a Saturday, and the AFL has made the contentious decision to change the starting time of the annual clash between Collingwood and Essendon to 4:20pm.
It has had various starting times before. The match has begun as early as 1:15pm in 2004 to avoid a clash with the NRL game between the St George Illawarra Dragons and Sydney Roosters (this was due to Channel Nine having the broadcasting rights to both the AFL and NRL at the time).
Other matches will see Lewis Taylor return to the Gabba with his new side the Sydney Swans, while the Geelong Cats will fly across the Nullarbor for the second time in four weeks when they face Fremantle in a rare Sunday evening match.
6. The grand final rematch (Round 7)
For the GWS Giants, it was inevitable that they would have to return to their place of humiliation – the MCG – to face Richmond for the first time since the forgettable 2019 grand final.
After just eight seasons in the AFL, the Giants showed plenty of grit to qualify for its maiden grand final this year, only to be on the receiving end of a Dustin Martin masterclass as the Tigers took home their 12th premiership.
Their first opportunity for revenge (or redemption depending on how you look at it) will come in Round 7 when they face the Tigers on a Saturday afternoon at the MCG. It’s not their first time back on the G though, that will happen five weeks earlier against the Demons in Round 2.
It’s another opportunity for Leon Cameron’s men to rectify its poor record at the MCG, where it has won only four out of 20 times (two each against Melbourne and Collingwood). They will also get another match at the G later in the season when they face Hawthorn in Round 18.
But Round 7 will be made tougher by the fact that it marks their sixth game in a row away from Giants Stadium. The premiership contenders finally return home the week after when they host Collingwood for the first time since last season’s epic preliminary final.
7. Sir Doug Nicholls Round
The major highlight of Sir Doug Nicholls Round, as always, will be the clash between Essendon and Richmond on Saturday evening, but this won’t be the only game to keep an eye on over the weekend.
The Sydney Swans will open the round, as they did last year, by hosting the Geelong Cats at the SCG. It’s the first time the two sides will meet in Indigenous Round since the Swans handed Chris Scott’s men a 110-point thrashing back in 2014.
The first match on Saturday sees Fremantle travel east to face St Kilda at Marvel Stadium, with new Dockers coach Justin Longmuir looking to sink the Saints as a coach after famously kicking the match-winning goal after the final siren fourteen years ago.
Also lighting the fuse for this match will be the presence of Bradley Hill in St Kilda colours after he requested a trade away from Fremantle at the end of last season.
That night, Eddie Betts and the Blues will travel to the City of Churches to face the Adelaide Crows. After entertaining fans with his freakish skills at the Adelaide Oval over the years (including three Goals of the Year), it will remain to be seen what reception he receives from the local supporters.
While the Dreamtime at the G clash takes place, the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns will be fighting it out for local bragging rights when they face each other in the 19th QClash at the Gabba.
Sunday will see Melbourne host the Western Bulldogs, and Collingwood playing a home game against North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium. Finally, the GWS Giants make the difficult trip west to face the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium.
8. The Pride Game (Round 15)
For the fifth straight year, the Pride Game between St Kilda and the Sydney Swans will take place, and it will be the Saints’ turn to host the game at Marvel Stadium.
On the back of arguably the club’s most eventful off-season since 2000 (when they landed the likes of Fraser Gehrig and Aaron Hamill, and drafted Nick Riewoldt and Justin Koschitzke), expectations will be high for the Saints in season 2020.
One hoodoo they’ll be keen on ending is with the Swans who they haven’t beaten in ten previous meetings dating back to mid-2012.
They’ve also been comprehensively outplayed in each of the four previous Pride Games since it was launched in 2016. Surely the time will come for Brett Ratten’s side to register their first win in the annual fixture.
It will also be a special occasion for Zak Jones, who will come up against the Swans for the first time since requesting a trade out of the Harbour City at the end of last season.
9. Pinchgate: the rematch (Round 16)
Fans of Essendon and Hawthorn will have to wait until just over the halfway mark of the season to see their sides face off in what will be the last of nine scheduled Thursday night clashes for the 2020 season.
It will be the first time the two bitter rivals clash since “Pinchgate” in Round 13 last season when Hawks captain Ben Stratton repeatedly pinched the arm of Essendon forward Orazio Fantasia – antics that warranted a two-game suspension.
It was the latest chapter in a string of controversial moments between the two sides, which includes the infamous “Line in the Sand” match in 2004, Matthew Lloyd knocking Brad Sewell into Disneyland in 2009, and Sam Mitchell sledging Essendon players over their supplements scandal in 2015.
Thus you can bet that there will be no love lost between the Bombers and Hawks when they face off for the only time in 2019 with the red and black once again enjoying hosting rights.
Also in Round 16, Tim Kelly will return to Kardinia Park with his new side the West Coast Eagles to face the Cats in a Friday night blockbuster, while Melbourne makes another trip across the Nullarbor, this time to face Fremantle.
10. The local derbies
And of course, you cannot miss any of the local derbies in your home states – that’s if you live in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia or Western Australia.
In Queensland, the first QClash for the season will take place during the Sir Doug Nicholls Round while the second will be held at Metricon Stadium in the penultimate round of the season.
Fans of the Swans and Giants won’t have to wait long for the first Sydney Derby which the Swans will host at the SCG on a Saturday evening in Round 5. The Giants will then host the return leg in Round 19 starting at the unusual time of 5:10pm on Saturday evening.
In South Australia, Port Adelaide’s first home game of the season will come in Round 2 with the Showdown kicking off the club’s 150th anniversary celebrations. The Crows’ home game will come in a standalone match on the Sunday of Round 13.
Finally, in Western Australia, the Eagles will aim for their tenth straight Derby win when they host Fremantle in Round 7 before the Dockers host the return Derby in Round 18.
Some other facts about the fixture
Milestones to look out for