Mike Pyke
Mike Pyke

'''ADELAIDE:''' (''By Michael Huguenin'')
Having had what was widely considered one of the easiest draws in 2012, the Adelaide Crows' comfortable-looking draw for 2013 will frustrate plenty of opposition fans.

Adelaide finished second after 23 rounds this year but must only play each of the other top-four clubs once in 2013, with the games against Hawthorn and Sydney set to be played at AAMI Stadium in Round 6 and 11.

The Crows' toughest trips will come in the final eight rounds as they take on Collingwood at the MCG in Round 16, Fremantle at Patersons Stadium in Round 18, as well as a final-round journey to Perth to play the West Coast Eagles.

The tough side to Adelaide's draw is that they must play three of this year's finalists twice in the Eagles, the Dockers and North Melbourne, although the fact the Crows do not travel two weeks in a row means they cannot be too disappointed.

Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson will have taken one look at his team's draw and know they need to take advantage of what shapes as a fairly soft start to the season, where they face five clubs that failed to make this year's finals.

After an opening round clash with Essendon in Adelaide, the Crows will head to Brisbane before the Showdown against Port Adelaide in Round 3.

Round 4 will see the Western Bulldogs head to AAMI Stadium before Sanderson's side travel to the MCG to take on Carlton in Round 5.

If Adelaide can get through July in good shape, when they play West Coast, Collingwood, Geelong and Fremantle, they should be set up for a good tilt at a top-four spot in the final five rounds.

'''BRISBANE:''' (''By Bren O'Brien'')
Brisbane's 2013 draw is highlighted by the fact that they avoid playing the top four sides from last year more than once, with two of those games at home at the Gabba including their first Friday home night match - against Collingwood in Round 10 - since 2009.

It's a motley kind of draw through the early part of the season. They travel to Melbourne twice in the first four rounds for games against the Bulldogs (R1) and North Melbourne (R4), while they host the Crows in Round2 and make the short trip down the highway to take on Gold Coast in the first of two Q-Clashes in Round 3.

Round 6-14 sees the Lions play six teams who made the eight in 2012, and two who will be close to making it in 2013, Essendon and Carlton. They will start outsiders in all those eight games, despite four of them, against West Coast, Carlton, Collingwood and Geelong, being played at the Gabba.

It means the Lions will do well to have a better than 50 per cent win record by the time they face Gold Coast for a second time in Round 15. Much like this season, things improve significantly later in the year with five Gabba games in eight matches, including winnable fixtures against GWS and the Bulldogs in Round 21 and Round 22.

However, if they need to win their final game of the season to make the eight, they'll be in for a tough battle against Geelong at Simonds Stadium, a venue they haven't won at for ten years.

'''CARLTON:''' (''By Angus Morgan'')
Despite missing the 2012 finals, the Blues have been rewarded with five Friday night and six Saturday night matches in 2013, along with standalone fixtures on a Thursday night and Monday night.

Of the five teams Carlton plays twice - Collingwood, St Kilda, Richmond, Essendon and Port Adelaide - only the Magpies made last season's finals.

The Blues' season kicks off with the traditional Thursday night clash against Richmond at the MCG, which happens to fall on Easter Thursday.

Then follows a testing month with matches against Collingwood, Geelong, West Coast (away) and Adelaide at the MCG, which may well define the club's season.

Four of Carlton's Friday night games come in a block from Rounds 11-15 against Essendon, Hawthorn, Sydney and Collingwood, broken up by a bye in Round 13.

The Blues travel interstate five times, and these matches in Rounds 4 (West Coast at Pattersons Stadium), 9 (Brisbane Lions at the Gabba), 14 (Sydney at the SCG), 18 (Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium) and 23 (Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium) are well spread.

Their venue breakdown is as follows: Etihad Stadium (9 matches), MCG (8), Patersons Stadium (1), Gabba (1), SCG (1), Metricon Stadium (1), AAMI Stadium (1).

Three of the Blues' five six-day breaks, occur in a four-week period between Rounds 7-8, 8-9, and 10-11.

'''COLLINGWOOD:''' (''By Paul Barbieri'')
It's blockbuster central as usual for Collingwood in 2013 as the Magpies look to make up for last year's disappointing preliminary final loss to Sydney.

The Magpies have 14 matches at the MCG next year and seven Friday night matches, while their schedule also includes an Easter Sunday opening-round clash with North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, the traditional Anzac Day fixture against Essendon and the Queen's Birthday match against Melbourne.

That first-round clash with North Melbourne is the first of two games against the Kangaroos in 2013, with the Magpies also facing other 2012 finalists Sydney and Hawthorn on two occasions next year, along with playing two games against Essendon and Carlton.

The first clash with Hawthorn takes place in Round 3 and forms part of a difficult opening stretch for Collingwood where they will then have a six-day break before playing Richmond in Round 4, followed by just five days rest before Anzac Day.

Overall Collingwood have six six-day breaks and the one five-day break, but the club will be annoyed that they face reigning premiers Sydney at ANZ Stadium in Round 20 and then have just six days to recover before the other 2012 Grand Finalist Hawthorn at the MCG.

Those two games comprise a difficult closing stretch for the Magpies as they play Essendon - an odd Sunday twilight game - Sydney, Hawthorn, West Coast and North Melbourne in the last five rounds.

However, heading into that stretch, the Magpies have a period from Rounds 10 to 18 where they will definitely be looking to consolidate their position in the top eight.

During this block, which also includes the Round 13 bye, Collingwood face two quality opponents in Adelaide (Round 16, MCG) and their second meeting with former coach Mick Malthouse's Carlton (Round 15, MCG).

Aside from that there is Brisbane (Gabba, R10), Melbourne (R11), Western Bulldogs (R12), Port Adelaide (AAMI Park, R14), Gold Coast (Metricon Stadium, R17) and GWS (R18).

Collingwood play interstate on five occasions and head to Queensland twice. Their venue breakdown is MCG (14 matches), Etihad Stadium (3), Patersons Stadium (1), AAMI Park (1), ANZ Stadium (1), Metricon Stadium (1) and the Gabba (1).

'''ESSENDON:''' (''By Ronny Lerner'')
Despite missing out on the finals this year, Essendon have been allotted five matches in both the plumb Friday night and Saturday night timeslots next season.

The Bombers will also receive maximum exposure in a Thursday night stand-alone clash against West Coast in Round 14 at Patersons Stadium and when you chuck in an additional five twilight fixtures, it means only five of Essendon's matches will end with the sun still out in 2013.

James Hird's men will also be pleased at having 13 breaks of at least a week, including two nine-day breaks, one 10-day and one 12-day break (following their bye in Round 13), and only four Sunday matches.

The Bombers only play two finalists twice in the Eagles and Collingwood and face easybeats Greater Western Sydney on two occasions as well. But they will also have to negotiate two fixtures against a pair of teams that have troubled them enormously in recent years - Carlton and Richmond.

The softest part of Essendon's draw appears to be between Rounds 12-17 with four of five matches against 2012 strugglers Gold Coast, Port Adelaide, Bulldogs and GWS.

Essendon don't leave Victoria between Rounds 4-9 and, more importantly, the final six rounds (18-23) which gives them a settled run if they are to make the finals.

But they're going to need every advantage given to them in that final month-and-a-half as they face a horror stretch which includes clashes against 2012 finalists Hawthorn, Collingwood, West Coast and North Melbourne as well as the Blues and Tigers.

And the Bombers' start to the year isn't a walk in the park either with engagements against top-eight teams Adelaide (away), Fremantle (away), Collingwood and Geelong in the first seven rounds.

Of Essendon's five interstate trips, two of them are to Perth.

'''FREMANTLE:''' (''By Paul Barbieri'')
Fremantle's growing stature has seen the club receive several blockbusters games but they may have come at the cost of a good start to season 2013.

Right from the outset, the Dockers, beaten semi-finalists in 2012, will be faced with a tough prospect coming up against Western Derby rivals West Coast on the season's opening weekend.

The Eagles have won three of the last four matches against their neighbours, but West Coast will still be smarting from their last Derby appearance, where they were comprehensively slaughtered as Matthew Pavlich scored eight goals.

The clash with West Coast, though, is just one match from a difficult opening eight weeks which also features games against Essendon (Round 3, home), Hawthorn (Round 4, Aurora Stadium, Richmond (R5, home), Collingwood (R7 home) and Sydney (R8, SCG).

The games against Essendon and Richmond are both Friday night matches, the latter being the annual Len Hall Tribute Game, which was previously played on Anzac Day, although it seems the Dockers may have been forced to give up on having this fixture on the actual public holiday.

Although the Dockers have a difficult opening to the season, there are some good points, with Freo only playing two of last year's finalists on two occasions in Adelaide (Rounds 10 and 18) and West Coast (Rounds 1 and 16).

Following their bye in Round 11, Fremantle will play four of their next five matches at home, while the Dockers also have a good run into the finals with games against GWS, Melbourne, Port Adelaide and St Kilda. The Melbourne clash is in Round 21 at the MCG and given these two clubs barely got 10,000 people to see them play in 2012, it could be a very empty home of footy that day.

In an odd element of the fixture, Fremantle play in Melbourne in Round 2 against the Western Bulldogs and then do not return to Victoria until Round 14 for their clash with Geelong at Simonds Stadium, a gap of almost three months.

The Dockers also have six six-day breaks between games, with one of those gaps occurring between Rounds 21 and 22, at a tough time for a potential finals preparation.

Fremantle's venue breakdown is as follows: Patersons Stadium (12 matches), Etihad Stadium (3), MCG (2), AAMI Stadium (1), Metricon Stadium (1), Simonds Stadium (1), Aurora Stadium (1).

'''GEELONG:''' (''By Bren O'Brien'')
There are two notable things about Geelong's 2013 fixture. The three six-day breaks to start the season and the fact they have to play last year's grand finalists twice each.

Outside of that, the Cats have fared pretty well, despite not having use of their home fortress Simonds Stadium, where they have won 37 of their past 38 matches, until Round 10 due to renovation.

Unsurprisingly, the Cats kick off the season against Hawthorn, a team they have famously beaten the nine times they have played them since the 2008 Grand Final, while six days later they front up against North Melbourne, who they hadn't lost to in five years before a shock defeat in Round 3 2012.

Then six days later it's Carlton, who the Cats have recently had trouble with, but defeated in their only clash last year. Then off another six-day break, they front against the premiers Sydney at the SCG.

That period of four games in 18 days will likely define Geelong's direction for the rest of the season. At least travel won't be a factor early on, with seven of the first eight in Victoria before three winnable away matches in four against Port Adelaide, GWS and Brisbane.

The compressed nature of the Simonds Stadium fixtures means the Cats come home with five of their last eight at home, including a first match against St Kilda in Geelong in nine years in Round 18.

The Cats' two matches outside of Victoria in the final 10 weeks are against Adelaide (Round 17) and West Coast (Round 21). Back-to-back home matches round out the season against Sydney and Brisbane.

'''GOLD COAST:''' (''By Bren O'Brien'')
If Gold Coast want to take the step up in 2013 then the AFL has handed them every opportunity with only one match each against the top eight sides in the fixture.

Including the season opener against St Kilda, the Suns get four of their first six matches at Metricon Stadium, looking to build on their two-match winning streak there to finish off 2012 (they did lose their first 17 matches there).

Their away trips in the first six rounds are against Sydney at the SCG in Round 2 and against fellow newbie GWS at Manuka Oval in Round 5 - the venue where the Giants secured their first win of 2012.

The five matches from Round 4 - Round 8 feature just one match against a finalist, but from Round 9 to Round 14, they play four finalists plus Essendon (away) in a tough middle section.

Interestingly enough, from Round 10 - Round 21 they play every match on a Saturday, ensuring they only have two six-day breaks for the entire season and enabling Guy McKenna some consistency in preparation.

They will feel confident of knocking off Richmond in the Round 16 clash in Cairns, where they have beaten the Tigers in the previous two campaigns, while the last month looks kind, with home matches against Melbourne (Round 20) and the Giants (Round 23) split by trips to Port Adelaide and St Kilda.

'''GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY:''' (''By Bren O'Brien'')
The AFL's love of the concept of a Sydney derby means the Giants, this year's wooden spoon winner, face the premiers Sydney twice in 2013.

What makes it even tougher for the sophomore club is that they again kick their season off against the Swans - who they lost to by 67 and 96 points respectively in 2012 - and confront them against in Round 16 at the SCG.

The Swans factor aside, they fare reasonably well, with their double ups coming up against the other bottom-four sides for 2012, Gold Coast, Port Adelaide and Melbourne, plus Essendon.

With the opening match at ANZ Stadium and home fixtures against St Kilda (Round 3) and Gold Coast (Round 5) being played at Manuka Oval in Canberra, they don't get a match at Skoda Stadium until Round 7 against Adelaide.

That match sparks a run of five matches of which four are against top eight sides as well as Carlton, who will be looking to get back in the top echelon. At best they can expect to be 2-9 by Round 11.

A home match at Skoda against Essendon in Round 17 should get Kevin Sheedy fired up, while the end of the season is kind with matches away to Brisbane and home to Richmond followed by a Round 23 clash against Gold Coast.

'''HAWTHORN:''' (''By Luke Buttigieg'')
The team most expected would by now have been basking in premiership glory, will begin their quest for redemption with the toughest opening seven weeks of any team in the competition.

In this block, they have matches against every one of their fellow finalists from 2012, including a six-day break between their opener against nemesis Geelong and Round 2 clash with West Coast in Perth.

Their return matches are all against fellow finalists from this season, with two grand final rematches - in Round 7 at the MCG and Round 23 at ANZ Stadium - as well as repeat battles against Collingwood, West Coast, Geelong and North Melbourne.

They have seven home matches in Melbourne including one at Etihad Stadium and also host four matches at Aurora Stadium in Launceston, with the Bulldogs the Victorian team they will clash with.

They have six six-day turnarounds, fewer than some of their rivals like West Coast (eight), North Melbourne (eight) and Sydney (seven) and the early onslaught also features trips outside Victoria every second week for the first eight rounds.

With eight matches outside Victoria including two in Adelaide, the Hawks will be pleased that five of their final six matches are in Melbourne.

'''MELBOURNE:''' (''By Robert Somers'')
Melbourne's fixture is a double-edged sword, giving them a leg up on the field but a kick in the guts commercially.

The cellar dwelling Demons will play each 2012 finalist just once next season - except Fremantle - and they will play this year's non-finalists Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast, Greater Western Sydney and Western Bulldogs twice.

But the cash-strapped club wasn't so lucky in terms of the all important timeslots.

Melbourne will play 14 day games, three twilight matches and four at night - but none during the lucrative Friday primetime slot.

Amazingly, Mark Neeld's men will play 12 of their opening 14 matches at the MCG.

The Demons play their opening four rounds at the 'G, against Port Adelaide (Round 1), Essendon (Round 2), West Coast (Round 3) and Greater Western Sydney (Round 4).

Melbourne's first match away from the home of football is against Brisbane Lions at the Gabba in Round five.

Their only other match away from the MCG in the first 15 rounds is at Patersons Stadium against Fremantle in Round 9 while they've a bye in Round 12.

But the red and blue will play at the MCG just once in their final eight weeks of the season - against Fremantle in Round 21. Their two other 'home' matches from Round 16 are in Darwin against the Lions in Round 17 and at Etihad Stadium against North Melbourne in Round 18.

'''NORTH MELBOURNE:''' (''By Luke Buttigieg'')
After being handed a dream draw in 2012 with return matches against both expansion clubs and the Western Bulldogs, things will be much tougher for North Melbourne next year after they copped one of the hardest fixtures of all 18 clubs.

Apart from a return clash against the Lions, the Kangaroos will play top-four sides from 2012 in the Hawks, Magpies and Crows twice each, along with another finalist from last year in the Cats.

And when you throw in the competition's equal-highest number of six-day breaks between matches, with eight occasions where they do have the shorter turnaround, coach Brad Scott will know things will be far tougher in 2013.

They have earned an increase from one to three Friday night matches next year, up from the one per season they have had for the past six seasons, with these games coming against West Coast in Perth and then at Etihad Stadium against Carlton (Round 17) and Geelong (Round 19).

Four of their first seven matches are in Melbourne with two of the others at their second home in Tasmania - the second of them against Port Adelaide - while they also close the season with six of their final seven matches in Melbourne.

It will be a tough opening to the campaign as they take on Collingwood on Easter Sunday at Etihad Stadium, Geelong at the same venue a week later and then reigning premiers Sydney at Blundstone Arena in Round 3, with Hawthorn to come at the MCG in Round 5.

The tough start to the season is book-ended by a testing run home with matches in the final five weeks against Geelong (Etihad), Adelaide (AAMI Stadium), Essendon (Etihad), Hawthorn (Etihad) and Collingwood (MCG).

'''PORT ADELAIDE:''' (''By Luke Buttigieg'')
The Power will be largely pleased by their draw considering they play two Showdowns and then only have a return meeting with one other of 2012's finalists, Geelong. The other repeat clashes are against fellow bottom-four sides the Giants and Suns as well as the Blues.

Port open their campaign under new coach Ken Hinkley on the road against Melbourne on Easter Sunday, March 31, and will fancy their chances of a strong start with their following three matches against GWS (AAMI Stadium), Adelaide and Gold Coast (Metricon Stadium).

Their most difficult stretch would seem to come between Rounds 13 and 17 when they take on Sydney, Collingwood, Essendon, Hawthorn and St Kilda, although three of them are at home, the exceptions the Bombers and Saints clashes.

They will travel outside South Australia on 10 occasions, visiting Victoria five times as well as a trip each to Gold Coast, Hobart, Darwin, Sydney and Perth while they will have to negotiate half a dozen six-day breaks.

Four of their final six matches are at home, including their second match against Mick Malthouse's Blues in Round 23 that will signal the farewell to AAMI Stadium before AFL matches move to Adelaide Oval in 2014.

The Power play 14 of their matches on Saturdays in 2013, with another seven across the three Sunday timeslots and the one against the Blues a possibility to also be a Sunday while they are unlikely to receive any Friday night exposure - unless Carlton headed into the final round on top of the ladder.

'''RICHMOND:''' (''By Paul Gough'')
Richmond will certainly have to beat the teams that finished just above them in season 2012 if they are to finally end their long finals drought in 2013.

The Tigers finished 12th this year - missing the finals for an 11th consecutive season - but despite that have been handed just one return fixture against a side that finished below them last season, the Western Bulldogs.

And both those games will be played at the Bulldogs' home ground - Etihad Stadium.

However, on the flip side the Tigers only play one return game against a finalist from last season in Fremantle with their other return matches being against the three clubs that finished just above them in ninth to 11th spots last season - St Kilda, Carlton and Essendon.

The Tigers meet Carlton in their traditional Round 1 clash, which will be played on Easter Thursday, while they face Essendon in the annual Dreamtime at the G clash as well as in the final round of the season.

Overall the Tigers have 13 games at the MCG, three at Etihad Stadium and six interstate - including two trips to Perth.

One of those trips to Patersons Stadium is a Monday night away game against West Coast in Round 10 on what is the WA Foundation Day public holiday in Perth.

The Tigers again play GWS and Gold Coast just once with their sole meeting against the Suns again in Cairns where they have lost to the competition new boys in each of the past two seasons.

But the Tigers have a good run home with four of their last five matches being at the MCG whilst the other is against GWS at Skoda Stadium.

'''ST KILDA:''' (''By Robert Somers'')
If St Kilda want to make the finals they must take advantage of what's a pretty soft start to their fixture. They meet bottom-eight sides from last year including Gold Coast, Richmond, Greater Western Sydney and Essendon in the opening four weeks.

The main downside for St Kilda is their travel demands, with seven matches outside Victoria, including a home match in New Zealand (Round 5) and a match against the Giants in Canberra in (Round 3).

Overall the Saints have a favourable draw, with two games against, Richmond, Carlton, Sydney, Gold Coast and Fremantle.

They will again play two home matches at the MCG against Richmond (Round 2) and Melbourne (Round 13).

There are six short breaks (down from nine in 2012), including back-to-back between rounds seven and nine.

The Saints will play three Friday night games, and eight twilight games (four Saturday, four Sunday).

They also travel down the highway to play Geelong at Simonds Stadium for the first time since 2004 in what will be a Round 18 night match.

'''SYDNEY:''' (''By Luke Buttigieg'')
The reigning premiers will be delighted with their opening fortnight of the season after being drawn against cross-town Greater Western Sydney at ANZ Stadium and then Gold Coast at the SCG.

And with St Kilda and Brisbane to come in Rounds 5 and 6, following clashes with North Melbourne in Hobart and Geelong at the SCG, they will fancy having at the very least a 4-2 if not 5-1 record.

Things get tougher from there with a five-week stretch that starts with the first grand final rematch at the MCG against the Hawks, followed by matches against the Dockers (SCG), Magpies (MCG), Bombers (SCG) and Crows (AAMI Stadium).

Following their Round 12 bye they face four rounds on end against non-finalists from 2012, including the Giants again, and in fact in seven weeks the Eagles in Perth represent their only clash against a fellow finalist from this year.

They close with matches against Collingwood (ANZ Stadium), St Kilda (SCG), Geelong (Simonds Stadium) and Hawthorn (ANZ).

Afforded return clashes against the Giants - unlike all of their fellow 2012 finalists - the Swans' other repeat matches are against the Hawks, Cats, Magpies and Saints, and have to deal with seven six-day breaks, with three of their final four matches in the Harbour City.

'''WEST COAST:''' (''By Greig Johnston'')
The West Coast Eagles will be keen to make the most of a light travel schedule in the opening weeks of the 2013 season, with just one of their first four matches outside WA.

The Eagles kick off their campaign with a clash against arch enemies Fremantle, but with Round 1 being a split round again this year, they will have a fortnight to recover before hosting 2012 Grand Finalists Hawthorn at Patersons Stadium.

Their only interstate trip in the first month of the season is to the MCG to play Melbourne, with their other appearance at the 'G coming in Round 22 against Collingwood.

John Worsfold's men take on 2012 finalists Hawthorn, Adelaide and Fremantle twice - with the second derby falling in Round 16 - while the other teams the Eagles meet twice are the Bulldogs and Essendon.

West Coast have eight six-day breaks - level with North Melbourne for the most in the competition - as they meet Richmond on Monday June 3, the Foundation Day public holiday in WA, and then clash with Essendon on Thursday June 27.

The Eagles play three Friday night games in 2012, and come home with a difficult burst against Geelong (Patersons), Collingwood (MCG) and Adelaide (Patersons).

West Coast's overall venue breakdown is as follows: Patersons Stadium (12), Etihad Stadium (four), AAMI Stadium (two), MCG (two), Skoda Stadium (one) and the Gabba (one).

'''WESTERN BULLDOGS:''' (''By Wojtek Galon'')
After a forgettable 2012, the Dogs get some relief by playing four of their first five encounters on familiar ground at Etihad Stadium, with five of their final six fixtures also at Docklands.

The opening interstate trip comes in Round 4 with a visit to AAMI Stadium to face the Crows, one of seven matches outside Victoria, though the Round 10 clash against the Tigers at TIO Stadium in Darwin is deemed a home clash.

Outside the traditional interstate venues there is also a journey to Canberra's Manuka Oval in Round 15 where the Giants will await, while Launceston's Aurora Stadium will host a meeting with the Hawks in Round 17.

The Crows are only one of two 2012 finalists who the Dogs will face twice, the Eagles being the other, while there will also be return dates with the Lions, Tigers and Demons.

The heavy interstate schedule is offset somewhat with the Dogs having only five six-day breaks to contend with.

The AFL have prioritised Friday night footy for teams deemed finals contenders, a point underscored by the Dogs being completely frozen out of the marquee timeslot for next year.

There will also be just the two Saturday night matches at home, against the Cats in Round 5 and the Tigers in Round 13.

The Dogs kick-off their season against the Lions at Etihad.


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