Carlton have received the most Thursday and Friday night games in the 2024 AFL fixture list. Image by Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

AFL to ‘wait and see’ on future of Opening Round

Oliver Caffrey November 16, 2023

The AFL will “wait and see” how the inaugural Opening Round is received before committing to it being a permanent part of the competition’s fixture list.

After a stunning surge to the finals this year, Carlton have been rewarded with the most Thursday and Friday night games of any club in 2024.

The Blues will be involved in eight prime-time games next year, one more than grand finalists Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions, who have seven each.

Adelaide, who climbed the ladder in 2023 but were dudded by a controversial umpiring decision during an infamous late-season match against Sydney, have been given six matches in front of a Thursday or Friday night national TV audience.

But fans are still split on the AFL’s announcement of a marquee weekend of four games played in Queensland and NSW to begin the season.

Carlton and Richmond have regularly opened the AFL season on a Thursday night, but the Blues and Tigers will face the Lions and Suns respectively in Opening Round in 2024.

Those fixtures fall in the same week as the NRL continues round one of its 2024 season with its first matches of the year in Australia, following rugby league’s season launch in Las Vegas the previous weekend.

“It’s a unique opportunity where we had access to venues where wouldn’t ordinarily have access to them,” the AFL’s broadcast and scheduling boss Josh Bowler told the league’s website.

“I think for now let’s see how it (Opening Round) goes. 

“We think it’s going to be big and we’ll reassess heading into the following year.”

All clubs will have a bye between rounds 12 and 15.

Timeslots have been confirmed up to round 15, with the remainder of the dates and times for games to be locked in later in the season.

“Thursday night footy is featured across 14 rounds which has allowed for blockbuster matches to be scheduled, and we know fans love these big clashes that build the anticipation for the rest of the weekend’s games,” Bowler said in a statement.

One Thursday night game will be the round-eight Showdown between Adelaide and Port Adelaide, which will screen on free-to-air TV nationwide for the first time in more than a decade.

The Anzac Day round will span five days, starting with Richmond and Melbourne at the MCG on Wednesday night. 

After the traditional Anzac Day blockbuster between Collingwood and Essendon on Thursday, the Lions and Giants will face off at Manuka Oval in Canberra later that night.

Before the fixture was released, the AFL issued a press release about changing the start time of Friday night matches from 7.50 pm to 7.40 pm, hailing the move a “win for fans”.

The Lions will get two chances at revenge on Collingwood, hosting the Magpies at the Gabba in round three before a return bout against the reigning premiers at the MCG in round 23.