The AFL appears more determined than ever to take advantage of the NRL’s four-team escapade to Las Vegas during the opening round of next season.
Having already flagged the possibility of two standalone NSW home games for Round 1, league officials have now floated the idea of adding two more fixtures in Queensland for a split first weekend of footy.
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The plan initially featured Sydney and GWS hosting Melbourne and reigning premiers Collingwood respectively, while one report suggested Richmond could also head interstate as part of the shake-up.
A new report has now confirmed the AFL has expanded that plan involving the Tigers and is considering two Queensland fixtures for the first leg of the Round 1 fortnight.
A likely scenario would see Brisbane host Carlton in a preliminary final rematch, while Gold Coast would welcome their new coach Damien Hardwick’s old team Richmond.
Down the road in NSW, the Giants would host the Magpies while Swans recruit Brodie Grundy would take on his old side Melbourne at the SCG.
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In a unique quirk, though, those eight teams would then play a second game in the same round.
A full nine-game fixture is being planned for the following week, including the traditional Richmond-Carlton MCG blockbuster on the Thursday night.
Carlton and Richmond will still play their traditional Thursday night blockbuster, but it may be in the second week of Round 1. Credit: Getty
The Lions, Blues, Tigers, Suns, Demons, Swans, Magpies and Giants would all then have a bye shortly after Round 1 to even out their extra game with the rest of the competition.
All teams would still be given a mid-season bye as well.
It’s 10 years since the league last opened the season with a split round.
The 2014 split round featured four games on the first weekend and five on the next, while 2013 was split two to seven and 2012 began with the first Sydney-GWS derby.
Collingwood will unfurl the flag at their first home game of the season, which would have to wait until the second week of Round 1 under the proposal, but Pies fans are sure to pack the MCG for that occasion regardless of when it comes.
Collingwood are among eight teams at the centre of a fixturing curveball. Credit: Getty
Nearly 61,000 showed up for the club’s first home game in 2023, against Port Adelaide, with the number sure to be higher if that fixture was repeated in 2024.
The Pies are also attempting to sway the AFL into back-to-back fixtures in Queensland on the school holidays, against Brisbane on Easter Thursday and then Gold Coast the following week.
How the AFL’s last split rounds looked
ROUND 1, 2014
Friday, March 14
Collingwood v Fremantle, Docklands (crowd: 37,571)
Saturday, March 15
GWS v Sydney, Sydney Showgrounds (17,102)
Gold Coast v Richmond, Carrara (19,425)
Sunday, March 16
Carlton v Port Adelaide, Docklands (24,640)
Thursday, March 20
Geelong v Adelaide, Kardinia Park (23,622)
Friday, March 21
North Melbourne v Essendon, Docklands (42,332)
Saturday, March 22
Hawthorn v Brisbane, York Park (12,430)
St Kilda v Melbourne, Docklands (31,657)
Sunday, March 23
West Coast v Western Bulldogs, Subiaco (36,752)
*MCG unavailable due to cricket commitments
ROUND 1, 2013
Friday, March 22
Adelaide v Essendon, Football Park (42,218)
Saturday, March 23
Fremantle v West Coast, Subiaco (39,629)
Thursday, March 28
Carlton v Richmond, MCG (80,971)
Saturday, March 30
Western Bulldogs v Brisbane, Docklands (25,263)
GWS v Sydney, Stadium Australia (23,690)
Gold Coast v St Kilda, Carrara (13,832)
Sunday, March 31
Melbourne v Port Adelaide, MCG (22,924)
North Melbourne v Collingwood, Docklands (41,040)
Monday, April 1
Hawthorn v Geelong, MCG (76,300)
*Second weekend played across Easter, no game on Good Friday
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