What a year we had in 2016… in what was arguably the most evenly contested season ever, the AFL reached new heights as a spectator sport.
We watched serial underdogs, the Western Bulldogs, claim their first flag since 1954. We witnessed the birth of a juggernaut as the GWS Giants fell one kick away from the Grand Final in their first finals series. We also said goodbye to some old favourites: Brent Harvey, Matthew Pavlich, Dane Swan, Jimmy Bartel and Corey Enright just to name a few.
Yes, it was a memorable year for footy fans. But as one chapter closes, another one opens, and after the drama we witnessed in September last year it wouldn’t be too much to ask for another stellar campaign.
Here are the blockbuster matches to look forward to in Rounds 1 – 11 of the 2017 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
Now the traditional game that kicks off the season, old foes Carlton and Richmond go head to head under MCG lights. Despite both teams finishing down the ladder in 2016, this annual curtain-raiser always generates excitement and drama. Time to brush off the cobwebs lads… footy’s back!
This particular contest between two bitter rivals is all about one thing – anticipation. For the Bombers, it’s been a long time coming for the suspended players and finally the club will be able to throw up its strongest line-up. For the Hawks, it is the beginning of a new era – no Mitchell or Lewis – and for the first time in a while they don’t begin the year defending champs. It’s only one game, but questions will be answered by the time the final siren sounds.
The Grand Final rematch – need we say more? September 30, 2016 will live long in the memories of most football fans, and in round two the protagonists of that momentous day do battle once again. For doggies fans, enjoy the unveiling of your first AFL premiership flag. For supporters of the bloods, hopefully a win will be a small consolation for the one that got away six months earlier.
In what’s become a staple fixture of the Easter long weekend, the Hawks and Cats go toe to toe in another instalment of this modern rivalry. The two teams have a rich history of dramatic finishes and memorable moments – one only has to look back at their last meeting where a missed shot after the siren from Isaac Smith separated the two teams. Expect 70,000 plus and a fiery atmosphere… because when these two meet they play for keeps.
Forget Battle of the Bridge, this is a battle of the big dogs. Both teams will be highly fancied to win the flag this season and both will feel like they could’ve/should’ve last season. GWS boast the most talented list in the competition, only strengthened by the class of Brett Deledio, whilst the Swans have the culture and midfield heavyweights to go the distance.. oh and some guy named Buddy Franklin. Expect another epic contest.
It goes without saying that this is the biggest day on the AFL calendar, barring the Grand Final itself. 90,000 passionate fans of two teams with over 100 years of history, on the biggest stage, coming together to remember our servicemen and women. The last post ceremony, minute silent and national anthem pre-game will send shivers down your spine - ANZAC Day is an occasion not to be missed.
The oldest rivalry in the game, when the Blues and Pies clash there’s more than four points at stake. We all know how much these two clubs hate each other, which makes the recent poor form of both teams irrelevant. Pride is on the line, and bragging rights until the next meeting. With the game being played at 2.10pm on a Saturday afternoon, this game presents as the ultimate way to enjoy tradition football.
If last year’s performances are anything to go by, these two teams should dish up a high-quality contest come Round 9. Both have a wealth of talent including Dangerfield and Selwood for the Cats, and Bontempelli and Liberatore for the Dogs. Geelong will have the advantage of hosting their opponents at the Cattery, a fortress in recent times, but the Bulldogs showed last year that no task is too great.
Over the last five years, the Swans and Hawks have produced some classic contests. Rarely a blowout, fans are likely to witness another close encounter as two modern heavyweights trade blows. Expect Buddy to light up as he faces his old mates, while the likes of old faithful’s Hodge and Burgoyne will always find a way to stamp their authority.
Always a special occasion for the Indigenous community, Dreamtime at the ‘G has become one of the marquee fixtures of the AFL home & away calendar. From the pre-game ceremony to the post-match awarding of the Kevin Sheedy Cup and Yiooken Award, there is no better night to celebrate the contribution of native Australians to our great game.