The first bounce of the 2017 season is just over 24 hours away, and with plenty of exciting matches over the first weekend, it’s safe to say we’re glad the footy is back.
Each fixture will be interesting for different reasons, and we’ve decided to look into every game to determine what the biggest talking point will be as we enter the weekend.
This game is always massive in terms of bragging rights, but the repercussions of this match are far greater for the Tigers this season.
Carlton aren’t expected to set the world on fire, and while most pundits are predicting Richmond to beat the Blues, and it’s an absolute must win for the Tigers who need to produce this season.
There’s been a lot of news surrounding the club and Damian Hardwick during the off-season, although a win could silence the critics for the time being, and that’s exactly what they need.
Travis Cloke played 246 times for the Magpies over the first 12 years of his career, although the past couple of seasons weren’t too kind to the key forward.
A change of scenery may just be what the 441-goal forward needs, and there’s no better way to start your Bulldogs career then against your old side.
The Dogs will also have their captain back, as the lovable Bob Murphy returns to the field for the first time since round three last season.
He walks back into a premiership side who’ll look a bit different, so there’s a bit on pressure on the Bulldogs to start their premiership defence with a win.
St Kilda v Melbourne – Which side starts the season stronger?
Both sides are being touted as the teams to make the jump in 2017, with many experts believing at least one of these two clubs can make the leap and play finals footy.
With the majority of last season’s top eight looking strong again this year, these two sides could well be fighting it our for one finals spot over the course of the season, and a win in the opening round here would already give one club a bit of a mental edge over the other.
It’s no secret that Ken Hinkley’s job isn’t safe. The Power coach has failed to take his side to the finals for the past two seasons after a preliminary final showing in 2014, and Port Adelaide chairman David Koch simply won’t stand for another year of failure.
While the Power aren’t expected to win this game, Port fans and supporters would love to see an improved effort from their side, and there’s no bigger challenge than facing the Swans in Sydney for your first test.
The banned Bombers are set to return to AFL action for the first time since 2015, and the new look Dons have a tough opponent in Hawthorn standing in their way.
Led by the inclusions of new captain Dyson Heppell, former skipper Jobe Watson and big man Michael Hurley, the Essendon faithful just can’t wait to see their team back to normal again, but there will be pressure on those players to return and to try and march their side back up the ladder.
It’s been a long time coming for the Suns, as Gold Coast still haven’t managed to find themselves in the finals series over their short history.
They’ve made some off-season moves and almost lost captain Gary Ablett to Geelong, but there’s a sense of optimism in the air at Metricon Stadium, as the now-mature Suns look to finally climb up the table.
A solid blend of experience and talented youth have put Gold Coast in a good spot heading into the season, although anything less than a big win against Brisbane will be acceptable to start their season.
With Brent Harvey, Michael Firrito, Drew Petrie and Nick Dal Santo all leaving the club at the end of last season, the Roos lost 1337 games of experience between those four alone (not to mention trading away 243-game veteran Daniel Wells, too).
They’re a significantly younger side this season, and North have been predicted by many to slide down the table, so a strong first-up performance could keep all the doubters quiet.
Drew Petrie made the move to West Coast over the off-season and wasn’t expected to feature this early, but after an injury to Scott Lycett in recent weeks, the 34-year-old will need to lead a depleted ruck line against one of the best in the business in Todd Goldstein, which should be a test for the Eagles in itself.
This game is big for the Giants. While GWS are favourites for the flag this season, they enter 2017 with injuries to some key players.
The Crows themselves will be looking to fight for a top four spot, so this looms as a large test for the Giants, one they’d like to think they’re up for.
Fremantle v Geelong – Where do Fremantle sit this season?
The Dockers finished with just four wins in 2016 and in 16th position, but they’ll argue that last season was just a one-off.
Geelong always presents a challenge no matter the venue, but Freo fans will be anxious to see whether 2016 was a blimp in the road or whether it’s the way of the future.