Brisbane overcame their goal-kicking yips to boot their highest score of the AFL season in Saturday night’s win over the Western Bulldogs.
Starting tonight, the AFL will embark on a run of 20 straight days in which at least one match will be played.
The week after the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was declared as such as by the World Health Organisation, the AFL announced that the season would be reduced from its original 23 rounds to 17, and that all quarters would be shortened from 20 minutes to 16.
This was done in the hope that the league would complete some rounds before the expected suspension at the peak of the virus, however only one round of matches was played before the league stopped its operations on March 22.
It was also expected that the season would be compressed at a later point in the year, whereby players would be required to play matches off very short turnarounds of about three-to-four days at the very least, in an attempt to complete the season as soon as possible.
It has since been announced that an extra round would be added (Round 18), so as to allow for teams to have a bye in the middle part of the season.
Essendon and Melbourne are already considered to have had their unofficial ‘bye’, caused by the fact that their Round 3 match was postponed due to Bomber Conor McKenna testing positive to COVID-19 in June. No date has yet been scheduled for this match.
The compressed part of the season begins tonight with the Western Bulldogs facing Richmond at Metricon Stadium, which will kick off Round 9 of the season and the 20-day football bonanza, which has been likened to cricket’s Big Bash League.
Thursday night features Melbourne playing a home game against Port Adelaide at the Gabba, which is a throwback to the early noughties when the club ‘hosted’ the ground’s regular tenants, the Brisbane Lions, at the ground so as to resolve their financial woes.
Only weeks after departing the Gold Coast hub, both the Power and Adelaide Crows will fly in and out of Queensland for their matches this weekend, with the winless Crows facing North Melbourne on Saturday afternoon.
Friday sees a double-header, with Carlton facing off against Hawthorn in Western Australia, with the two teams having just arrived in the west from Brisbane and Sydney respectively, while the evening match sees Essendon face off against the Brisbane Lions on the Gold Coast.
The Hawks will be hoping for some better fortunes after failing to win a match in their Sydney hub, including losing to both the GWS Giants and Sydney Swans in Rounds 5 and 8 respectively.
Meantime, the match between the Bombers and Lions on the Gold Coast is a re-enactment of the 2001 grand final, which the Lions won to capture the first of a hat-trick of flags.
Apart from the mockbuster between the Roos and Crows in the afternoon, Saturday sees two must-watch matches, with the Pride Game taking place between St Kilda and the Sydney Swans at the Gabba, and the West Coast Eagles hosting the Geelong Cats at Optus Stadium.
The match between the Saints and Swans will see Zak Jones, who has been a revelation for his new club, face off against his old side for the first time as they attempt to end an eight-year hoodoo against John Longmire’s men, having not beaten them since mid-2012.
On Sunday, we’ll see the clash of the expansion sides, with the Gold Coast Suns to start favourites when they face the GWS Giants at Metricon Stadium in what could yet be their most important clash since the teams’ inaugural meeting in 2012.
Round 9 will then finish off in the west, with Fremantle hosting Collingwood at Optus Stadium.
Round 10 will kick off the following night (Monday, August 3), to run for the duration of a typical working week, with Port Adelaide hosting the Western Bulldogs at the Adelaide Oval. The round finishes on Friday with a clash between Essendon and the GWS Giants on the Gold Coast.
Whereas in a typical round where the Friday night match is often the first or second match of the round, on this occasion the match between the Bombers and Giants will be the final one.
There will be only seven matches in Round 10, with both the Western Australia clubs plus Carlton and Hawthorn to serve their byes. Five of the seven matches will be played in Queensland, with Adelaide Oval to host the other two.
Apart from Port’s clash with the Bulldogs, the Crows will host the Demons in a Wednesday night clash, the second of two matches on that day, with the other being between the Geelong Cats and North Melbourne at the Gabba.
The Gold Coast Suns will feature under the Thursday night lights for the second time in three weeks, when they host St Kilda at Metricon Stadium. The other match to be played on that day sees Collingwood host the Swans at the Gabba.
It will be the first time since 2002 that the Swans have not hosted the Magpies in a calendar year, and the first time since 2013 that they will face each other away from either the SCG or ANZ Stadium.
Still, the Pies have played in Sydney for 18 consecutive years, having already played the GWS Giants at Giants Stadium in Round 4 and also facing Hawthorn in a neutral match at the same venue in Round 6.
The other match in Round 10 sees Richmond ‘host’ the Brisbane Lions at Metricon Stadium on the Tuesday evening.
Round 11 kicks off on Saturday, August 8 with the Adelaide Oval hosting the first of two blockbusters that round – the first being between current ladder leaders Port Adelaide and reigning premiers Richmond, which might just about fill the stadium’s permitted 50 per cent capacity.
Later that evening, after two matches in Sydney and three straight on the Gold Coast, the Brisbane Lions return to the Gabba for the first time since Round 5 when they host the Western Bulldogs in what promises to be a clash of two of the competition’s most exciting sides.
On the Sunday, West Coast will host Carlton in the west, while a new venue will need to be allocated for North Melbourne’s clash against Melbourne.
That match was originally fixtured to be played at Blundstone Arena in Hobart, but the Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein has refused to open his state’s borders to the sunshine state, despite there being only a handful of remaining active COVID-19 cases in Queensland.
It’s likely that the match between the Roos and Dees will therefore be played at Metricon Stadium, but by then, there is the chance that all remaining cases in Queensland may recover and therefore Gutwein may allow residents from the state to enter without having to quarantine for a fortnight.
Monday night (August 10) sees another double-header, with the 2009 and 2013 grand final combatants to face off on opposite sides of the country. Geelong and St Kilda will clash at the Gabba, while over in the west Fremantle will face Hawthorn at Optus Stadium.
Tuesday night sees the Adelaide Crows entertain Collingwood at the Oval, with another 50per cent capacity crowd expected, even if the Crows are still yet to win a match by this point of the season.
The final match of round eleven then sees the Gold Coast Suns play host to Essendon at Metricon Stadium on the Wednesday evening.
Round 12 kicks off the following evening on Thursday 13 August, with a Sydney derby to be played away from the Harbour City for the first time when the Sydney Swans and GWS Giants face each other in Western Australia quarantine.
This round will be played in as close as possible to its traditional format, with one match each on Thursday, Friday and Monday nights, and three matches each on Saturday and Sunday.
The two Sydney clubs will have a bye in the previous round so as to prevent the prospect of having to face each other off a very short turnaround.
It will be the first time any intrastate derby is played in neutral territory, but it won’t be the first in either the NRL or AFL – you’ll recall that in 2015, the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys faced off in the grand final at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
The Swans and Giants will remain in Perth for Rounds 13 and 14, but with the Swans having already faced the West Coast Eagles and Hawthorn in rounds five and eight respectively, it’s likely the Swans will play Carlton in Round 13, and then Fremantle in Round 14.
This would leave the Giants to face the Dockers and Eagles in those respective rounds before both the Sydney clubs either return home, or join the south-east Queensland hub; this is dependent on the COVID-19 situation.
By this point, the Giants will have yet to play the Adelaide Crows, Carlton, Melbourne and St Kilda, while the Swans still have to face the Brisbane Lions, Geelong Cats, Melbourne and Port Adelaide.
The following Friday night sees Geelong play Port Adelaide at the Gabba in a re-enactment of the 2007 grand final.
As is the case with the match between the Roos and Dees, it’s also likely the Saturday afternoon match between the Roos and Brisbane Lions will have to be shifted away from Tasmania, and with Metricon Stadium vacant that day, it would make sense to schedule the match there.
Melbourne and Collingwood will then face each other at the Gabba, while Fremantle will host Carlton in the west.
Sunday (August 16) will feature the Western Bulldogs facing Adelaide on the Gold Coast, St Kilda hosting Essendon at the Gabba and the West Coast Eagles lining up against Hawthorn in the west.
The footy bonanza concludes the following night, on Monday 17 August, with Richmond hosting the Gold Coast Suns at the Gabba.
What remains beyond that remains to be seen, with the coronavirus situation in Melbourne unlikely to improve in the short term while Sydney also remains at risk of a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases.
The Victorian capital continues to record triple-digit cases, which has resulted in the state premier Daniel Andrews locking down the metropolitan area for six weeks. In New South Wales, the situation is also concerning but not as bad.
After Round 12, there are still six rounds of matches to be played, and eight clubs will have had their byes (Essendon and Melbourne’s Round 3 ‘bye’ is considered unofficial, because their match was postponed), meaning they’ll have to play every round until the end.
Here is a list of clubs your team is still to play after Round 12.
Adelaide Crows: Carlton, Geelong Cats, GWS Giants, Hawthorn, Richmond.
Brisbane Lions: Carlton, Collingwood, Gold Coast Suns, St Kilda, Sydney Swans.
Carlton: Adelaide Crows, Brisbane Lions, Collingwood, Gold Coast Suns, GWS Giants, Sydney Swans.
Collingwood: Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Gold Coast Suns, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide.
Essendon: Geelong Cats, Hawthorn, Melbourne*, Port Adelaide, Richmond, West Coast Eagles.
Fremantle: GWS Giants, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Richmond, Sydney Swans, Western Bulldogs.
Geelong Cats: Adelaide Crows, Essendon, Richmond, Sydney Swans, Western Bulldogs.
Gold Coast Suns: Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Collingwood, Hawthorn, North Melbourne.
GWS Giants: Adelaide Crows, Carlton, Fremantle, Melbourne, St Kilda, West Coast Eagles.
Hawthorn: Adelaide Crows, Essendon, Gold Coast Suns, Port Adelaide, St Kilda, Western Bulldogs.
Melbourne: Essendon*, Fremantle, GWS Giants, St Kilda, Sydney Swans, Western Bulldogs.
North Melbourne: Collingwood, Fremantle, Gold Coast Suns, Port Adelaide, West Coast Eagles.
Port Adelaide: Collingwood, Essendon, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Sydney Swans.
Richmond: Adelaide Crows, Essendon, Fremantle, Geelong Cats, West Coast Eagles.
St Kilda: Brisbane Lions, GWS Giants, Hawthorn, Melbourne, West Coast Eagles.
Sydney Swans: Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Fremantle, Geelong Cats, Melbourne, Port Adelaide.
West Coast Eagles: Essendon, GWS Giants, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda, Western Bulldogs.
Western Bulldogs: Fremantle, Geelong Cats, Hawthorn, Melbourne, West Coast Eagles.
* – postponed match still to be rescheduled.
Bring on the footy festival and I’ll see you again in three weeks’ time.