MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Tom Mitchell of the Hawks in action during the 2018 AFL round 01 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Collingwood Magpies at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 24, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

As the AFL continues to manoeuvre through the off-season, anticipation builds towards the fixture release for 2022.

Supporters pray for a winnable game and fans hope for an opening round of must-see clashes to quench their football thirst. Heightening this anticipation is the likelihood that Australia will be fully open by the time the 2022 season begins, thanks to the increased vaccination rates nationwide.

While some footy fans had a small taste of the action this season, many were relegated to watching their sides on screens instead of at stadiums. Case in point, the Demons claimed the 2021 premiership in Perth while the majority of their supporters were locked down in Victoria.

In order for the AFL to not fall victim to their own hype for 2022, they must slate some massive clashes to kick off the season and reward those attending games with matchups worth their money.

AFL Rd 1 - Richmond v Carlton
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 18: Dustin Martin of the Tigers is tackled by Sam Walsh of the Blues during the 2021 AFL Round 01 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Carlton Blues at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 18, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

It’s likely that the season will begin with a Thursday night clash between the Blues and Tigers, which looks to be a close encounter as an early prediction. But for Friday night footy the league should schedule two big guns to go head-to-head, and there's none better choice than rekindling tradition and having the Dees and Dogs feature in a Grand Final rematch.

While we’re fantasy booking here, throw in a battle between two Premiership contenders to get some losses on the board early and add in a cross-town rivalry game too make for the perfect returning weekend.

Should the league slate the Hawks and Pies in the opening round, fans will be treated to a coaching dual between Sam Mitchell and Craig McCrae in the opening round and their respective debut matches in the hot-seat. 

As footy returns in the new year, hopefully to all states, one can’t help but cross their fingers that the first week of the 2022 season was worth the wait

Without further adieu, here is the predicted Round 1 fixture for the 2022 AFL season (based on desired and likely matchups).

Round 1, 2022 predictions

Thursday, March 17

7:30pm: Richmond v Carlton at the MCG

Friday, March 18

7:50pm: Melbourne v Western Bulldogs at the MCG

Saturday, March 19

1:45pm: Geelong v West Coast at GMHBA

4:35pm: Gold Coast vs St Kilda at Metricon Stadium

7:25pm: Collingwood v Hawthorn at the MCG

7:40pm: Port Adelaide vs Brisbane at Adelaide Oval

Sunday, March 20

1:10pm: North Melbourne v Essendon at Marvel Stadium

3:20pm: Sydney v GWS at the SCG

4:10pm: Fremantle vs Adelaide at Optus Stadium