Blues, Lions given prime AFL fixture slots

December 10, 2022 07:36 PM AEDT | By AAPNEWS
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Carlton's huge following and expected rise up the ladder have led to the Blues being given a strong hand of prime-time AFL fixtures next year.

The Michael Voss-led side will have seven games in Thursday and Friday night slots through the opening 15 rounds, including the season-opener against Richmond on March 16.

They also get a Sunday night blockbuster against old rivals Essendon at the MCG before the King's Birthday holiday in June.

The full 2023 AFL fixture was revealed on Saturday, with each club playing 23 matches over 24 weeks, including a revamped four-week bye period during the middle of the season.

The first 15 rounds of the season have been locked in and the remaining schedule has been left floating to ensure flexibility leading into the finals.

The Brisbane Lions also feature heavily in sought-after timeslots, with two Thursday and four Friday night fixtures, while reigning premiers Geelong have five games in those slots.

Richmond, Melbourne, Sydney and Port Adelaide have four apiece.

Essendon, Hawthorn and GWS are the only clubs without a Thursday or Friday night fixture through the first 15 rounds.

"We are really pleased to be able to deliver a fixture that balances great broadcast slots and great access for fans," AFL fixtures boss Travis Auld said.

"Momentum early is key, and the fixture has been designed in a way to spread the marquee showpiece Thursday and Friday nights timeslots across all of the key states, including games at the MCG, Marvel Stadium, SCG, The Gabba, Adelaide Oval and Optus Stadium.

"Thursday night blockbusters remain a priority for us, both from a broadcast and crowd-build perspective."

There will be Thursday night matches through the opening five rounds and again during the bye weeks, from rounds 13 to 15.

Local derbies in South Australia and Western Australia highlight the round-three fixture, with St Kilda set to celebrate their 150th anniversary against Essendon in the same round.

North Melbourne host Carlton on Good Friday, while Geelong and Sydney will meet in a repeat of last season's grand final in round six.

The Saturday night fixture will be the Cats' first game for the year at GMHBA Stadium, which is undergoing a redevelopment, and they will unfurl the 2022 premiership flag before the match.

As previously announced, all clubs will be based in South Australia for the 'Gather Round' festival of football in round five.

Sir Doug Nicholls Round will be played across rounds 10 and 11, with the Essendon-Richmond Dreamtime clash at the MCG on May 20 as the centrepiece.

Carlton last played finals in 2013 but are well placed to end the drought after missing out by the barest of margins last season.

Of the 2022 finalists, they only meet the Magpies and Melbourne twice next year, with other double-up games against Gold Coast, GWS, St Kilda and West Coast.

"Having had the highest home crowd attendance in the competition last season, which the AFL have recognised, this is reflected in our fixture, with our club in a high number of prime-time games during the first half of the season," Blues CEO Brian Cook said.


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