Cats face unique challenge in 2011 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cats face unique challenge in 2011

Roger Vaughan 29/10/2010 01:49:45 PM Comments (0)

Geelong will face a unique challenge in the 2011 AFL draw when they have three straight weeks of games against teams coming off the reintroduced bye.

Gold Coast's debut next season has meant significant changes to the draw released on Friday because of the odd number of teams.

The home-and-away season will run for 24 weeks, meaning the grand final will be on October 1.

It will be the first time the AFL have had byes since 1994.

Each team will have two byes, with 19 rounds of eight games and five of seven.

A quirk of the draw means Geelong only have a six-day break before their round-eight Friday night blockbuster against reigning premiers Collingwood, who thrashed them in this year's preliminary final.

The Magpies will come off the bye for that match and so will Carlton when they play the Cats seven days later.

Gold Coast also will come off the bye for their round-10 game against the Cats, the first time star Suns signing Gary Ablett plays his former club.

The "Ablett match" on Saturday night, May 28, will be Gold Coast's debut at their redeveloped Carrara stadium home.

Geelong, Fremantle and Sydney play teams coming off the bye four times, while Collingwood, Hawthorn, Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs have none.

Where the byes fall for teams could be another significant factor.

For example, North Melbourne's appear spread out too far, in rounds three and 21, while Hawthorn's come in rounds six and 17.

It has emerged the Cats lobbied the AFL to make a late change to the draw this week so they had one more early-season match at Skilled Stadium.

That will be round seven against North Melbourne - the first time twins Chris (Geelong) and Brad (North Melbourne) Scott coach against each other for premiership points.

Collingwood will play grand final opponents St Kilda twice next season, in rounds 11 and 21.

The season will again open with Richmond v Carlton at the MCG, on Thursday night, March 24.

Another feature match in round one will be Geelong v St Kilda the following night, also at the MCG.

Collingwood will unfurl their premiership flag in style - the round-three Friday night blockbuster at the MCG against arch-rivals Carlton.

The Magpies appear to have an easier draw than the 2010 season, when they were seen to have one of the tougher schedules.

But Collingwood made the most of it and won their first flag in 20 years.

Their four games out of Victoria next season are all after round 12.

The AFL have handed new Essendon coach James Hird a brutal draw - the most games of any club against this year's top-eight clubs (12) and five matches against top-four finishers.

By contrast, the Western Bulldogs only have three games against their fellow top-four finishers.

Carrara's unavailability early in the season means Gold Coast will have their byes in rounds one and nine.

They make their home-and-away debut against Carlton at the Gabba in round two.

The AFL grand final is likely to revert to the last day in September in 2012, when Greater Western Sydney enter and there is no need for byes.

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