The AFL has announced a new look Round 1 fixture as it aims to steal the limelight from the NRL in NSW during the opening week of the footy season next year.
Rugby league will head to Las Vegas to kick off the NRL season, with Manly playing the Rabbitohs and the Roosters taking on the Broncos in Sin City.
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The NRL released its draw earlier this week and with only one match to held in Sydney in Round 1, the AFL will be hoping for a Sydney takeover on the corresponding weekend.
The AFL has announced four games will be played in NSW and Queensland in a blockbuster ‘Opening Round’ to kick off the season.
Ruckman Brodie Grundy will face his old team for the first time when he suits up for the Sydney Swans against Melbourne in the season opener on Thursday 7 March at the SCG.
Brisbane will take on Carlton at the Gabba on Friday 8 March in a repeat of the preliminary final, which the Lions won.
In another blockbuster clash, Richmond will play the Gold Coast Suns at Heritage Bank Stadium as Damien Hardwick coaches against his former side and the likes of Dustin Martin for the first time since leaving the Tigers.
To finish up the first part of the opening round, GWS will take on Collingwood at GIANTS Stadium in Homebush, meaning the reigning premiers will play the first game of the season in Western Sydney’s rugby league heartland.
It is hoped the ‘Opening Round’ will help give a major boost to the game in Sydney and southeast Queensland with Victorian fans expected to travel to the northern states over the Labour Day long weekend.
Incoming AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon said: “We were fortunate to be in a position where we were able to have access to our major venues in Queensland and New South Wales a weekend earlier than usual which gave us a unique opportunity to play these four games in key markets where footy continues to grow in popularity.
“The four match-ups are big, with four of our biggest supported Victorian clubs travelling north, and we look forward to starting our season with real momentum before we head into a blockbuster round of matches in Round 1.
“Given this weekend also falls on the Labour Day long weekend in Victoria it presents a terrific opportunity for fans to travel north to support their club and enjoy an extended interstate break.
“We are driven to have footy in every home around the country, whether that be playing, coaching, umpiring, supporting or volunteering and starting the season across Queensland and NSW will only amplify this desire.”
The four-game fixture is a different way to start the season and is effectively a ‘Round Zero’ before the AFL season officially kicks off with Round 1 in Victoria the following weekend.
The eight clubs playing in the ‘opening round’ will have a second in-season bye staggered across rounds 2-6 to ensure all clubs are back on an even keel by round 7.
It won’t be the first game of the season as usual, but the traditional clash between Richmond and Carlton will kick off Round 1 March 14 at the MCG.
AFL 2024 ‘Opening Round’
Sydney Swans vs Melbourne — Thursday 7 March 7.20pm @ SCG
Brisbane Lions vs Carlton — Friday 8 March 6.50pm @ The Gabba
Gold Coast Suns vs Richmond — Saturday 9 March 3.20pm @ Heritage Bank Stadium
GWS Giants vs Collingwood — Saturday 9 March 7.30pm @GIANTS Stadium
Originally published as AFL breaks with tradition, announces blockbuster 2024 Opening Round