PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Marcus Bontempelli of the Bulldogs handpasses the ball during the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The AFL has revealed its fixture for Round 1 of the 2022 season. And for the first time since 2014, Carlton and Richmond will not be opening the season.

Instead, next year we will kick off the season the same way we finished it in 2021. With the Demons taking on the Western Bulldogs.

The idea of the previous season's Grand Finalists starting off the season has been spoken about for some time now, and those asking for it, get their wish in 2022.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Christian Petracca of the Demons under pressure from Marcus Bontempelli of the Bulldogs during the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Gary Day/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

But realistically, it's a waste of a big game. No matter what stage of the year these two teams meet, the hype and the crowd will likely be very big. There is no need to give it away in Round 1.

It doesn't really matter who plays who in the first round of the season as the excitement levels are through the roof and anticipation is ready to turn into complete fandom.

Giving this game away in Round one means that the occasion is lost to another round that may need the build-up a tad more.

Why not have the game in Round three? The season is young enough for neither team to be out of contention to weaken the event and then it gets its own space to build and draw a crowd.

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As opposed to them playing on a Wednesday night, which it seems no one was asking for.

With the league having all 10 victorian teams face-off against each other in Round one, the crowds are going to be healthy no matter the game. Victorian fans are keen to get back to the footy and will do so in droves.

But what if, like last season, we see a drop off in crowd numbers. The AFL could use a blockbuster to lure the fans off their couches on a cold Melbourne night in the middle of winter.

Instead, the two best teams in the competition will play on a very possibly warm evening and will be the first teams to lay foot on the MCG in over six months.

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This isn't to say that the two clubs don't deserve this opportunity, because in theory they definitely do. But it just seems like the AFL have perhaps not held a vital card up its sleeve for a time where they may need it.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said recently he believes the opening game of the 2022 season has the potential to draw the highest ever home and away crowd. But does he really believe that will be achieved on a work and school night? Especially one smack bang in the middle of the week?

Thursday night games can allow parents to give kids the Friday off or take the day off themselves, it's just the one day before the weekend. But by the time that Wednesday night comes and goes, there will still be two days of the working week left.

It may work, they may get 90,000 fans to the MCG for the opening game of the season. But they probably won't get too many more to this game in Round one, compared to if they were playing in Round three or four.

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1 COMMENT

  1. so…. the thrust of this article is to reduce a game to a marketing exercise?
    No wonder the fixture (and it is a fixture – it is by no means a “draw” and certainly not “fair”).

    I would think that anything that lifts the season-starter from a simple “gift” to two victorian clubs for no reason (other than they are vic clubs) is a move for the better.

    The real issue though is the plethora standalone games gifted to vic clubs throughout the season (under the pretext of “blockbuster games”) so they can rake in teh sponsorship dollars and gain an edge in membership sales…..

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