The start of next year’s season presents a unique opportunity for the AFL.
Round one is traditionally played after rugby league, but with the NRL galavanting on an overseas trip to Las Vegas in early March, perhaps this is the perfect chance for Aussie Rules to capitalize on the NRL’s absence in their own backyard with a full-on promotional blitz.
Collingwood and Melbourne are reportedly planning to kick off the 2024 season with an interstate extravaganza. They hope to attract the Harbour City to the game, which to some is crassly known as aerial, or human, ping pong.
The AFL website notes a draft version of the draw has been sent to clubs with a proposal for Collingwood to take on the GWS Giants, and Melbourne to take on Sydney Swans in a stand-alone blockbuster weekend – before the rest of the season commences a week later.
There are also reports that a third marquee match between Richmond and Gold Coast is being considered, in a bid to make the most out of the storyline of Suns coach Damien Hardwick facing his old team.
I think that this is a smart proposal by the premiers. Collingwood has a membership base of over 100,000 people from all walks of life, which presents a perfect opportunity to capture the Northern States market. The proposed matches would generate tourism dollars for the New South Wales and Queensland governments.
It would also make the start of round one more interesting, as it has been criticized in previous years.
Season 2024 offers intriguing storylines, such as Brodie Grundy’s debut for the Swans, Damien Hardwick facing his former team, which he had labelled as “putrid” after his final game in charge, and a fit and firing GWS looking for revenge against the Pies. Not to mention Melbourne, who will also be looking to silence the critics after what already looks like an off-season from hell, and the Pies, hoping for a perfect start to their premiership defence.
This would be a broadcaster’s dream for both Channel Seven, Fox Sports, and all radio networks.
Even though I am a Richmond supporter, I think it is time to mix things up, as the match-up between Carlton and Richmond has become stale. The contest is often either a blowout or, as we saw last year, a forgettable draw.
In 2022, we had the grand final rematch between the Dees and Dogs, which attracted 58,002 people on a Wednesday night. In 2014, it was Collingwood who kicked off the season against Fremantle.
This match between the Tigers and Blues should be scheduled for the following Friday night to kick off round two, with the possibility of playing one another again later in the season.
Imagine if Richmond played Carlton twice this year, especially when the Blues were marching towards September and the Tigers pushing for the finals. It would have been the hottest ticket in town.
The AFL might also consider another blockbuster to kick off season 2024 with Geelong and Collingwood, which attracted 86,595 fans to the contest at the MCG for the first Friday night game of the year.
All in all, the AFL and its clubs have an opportunity to create a point of difference for fans with a different match-up to get the footy juices flowing in season 2024 – all while the NRL is off pursuing other adventures.