AFL to test new timeslots in 2009 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

AFL to test new timeslots in 2009

By Adam Cooper 24/10/2008 09:05:48 PM Comments (0)

AFL heavyweights Collingwood and Carlton are big winners in the 2009 draw featuring three timeslots to be trialled with one eye on the league's future expansion plans.

Games will be played on two Thursday nights, one Monday night and one Saturday twilight, which is one of four games played on a Saturday Anzac Day.

The innovative timeslots, along with two Saturday afternoon games in Sydney, give the AFL a chance to consider the best fit for a ninth game every round from 2012, when both the Gold Coast and Western Sydney franchises have been admitted to the competition.

Carlton and Richmond open the season on Thursday, March 26, while Hawthorn and Geelong will stage a rematch of the 2008 grand final the following night.

The Cats play Collingwood on Easter Thursday (round three), while the Magpies and St Kilda will play on a Monday night in May (round seven) because the AFL was keen to avoid scheduling too many games on the low-drawing Mother's Day Sunday.

Anzac Day will feature the Collingwood-Essendon clash, but also Hawthorn hosting West Coast in Launceston starting 5.40pm local time, with two games that night, in Perth and Melbourne.

The AFL is yet to make a final decision on what day to schedule most of the games the Gold Coast and Western Sydney play, but chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan said next year's timeslots would give the league something to consider.

"We think they'll be events in themselves and good games with good promotion and good build-up, and it also looks forward to the future when we have potentially nine games and our ninth games will have to be scheduled somewhere," he said.

"So we will have had a look at a couple of different slots by then."

While the AFL did its best to satisfy most requests from clubs and venue operators, some clubs fared better than others.

Collingwood will play 18 games in Melbourne, travel only four times interstate and play the 2008 grand finalists only once each.

The Magpies were again rewarded for their high-drawing power, as all clubs requested them in home games.

Carlton were rewarded for their improvement last season, by earning greater exposure in the coveted Friday night timeslot, as well as playing foes Collingwood, Essendon and Richmond twice each and the Hawks and Cats only once each.

McLachlan said Hawthorn's rise last season also earned them greater exposure on Friday nights, free-to-air television and in Launceston, where they host St Kilda, North Melbourne, the Eagles and Brisbane Lions at their second home.

In contrast, clubs which slid last season, such as Melbourne and Essendon, were drawn to play regularly on Sunday, the day least preferred by fans.

Sydney and Adelaide were the only clubs unlucky to draw both reigning grand finalists twice each.

The greatest challenge for the AFL is scheduling a fair draw for a 16-side competition played across 22 rounds.

The league again courted controversy by scheduling some sides to play twice before meeting others for the first time.

However, McLachlan said the system had been "softened" by the scheduling of no teams to play each other a second time by round 10, and for no teams to meet for the first time in round 22.

But underlining the anomalies, Melbourne and Collingwood meet in round 11 after playing in round two, while Adelaide and West Coast play for the first time in round 21.

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