Richmond v Carlton, Round 2, Friday Night, MCG: Often an opening-week blockbuster, Richmond and Carlton will do battle in Round 2 and there will be plenty of added spice to this one. Essendon’s drug saga last year saw the Blues sneak into the finals, where they upset fifth-placed Richmond in a thrilling Elimination Final at the MCG. Tiger fans will still be hurting from that loss and a win here would also give them a handy jump on a Blues side that is expected to contend for finals again in 2014.
Port Adelaide v Adelaide Crows, Round 2, Saturday Twilight, Adelaide Oval: What better way to open a new stadium than a clash between two of the game’s biggest rivals? The first AFL match at the new-look Adelaide Oval will be a momentous event for footy in South Australia and the Crows and Power are sure to put on a show. A repeat of their Round-19 clash last year – when Chad Wingard led Port to a tense four-point win – would be an appropriate way to usher in a new era for footy in Adelaide.
Hawthorn v Fremantle, Round 3, Friday Night, MCG: Fremantle won’t have to wait long to try and avenge their Grand Final defeat when they return to the MCG in Round 3. Clubs normally try to play down the emotion behind a Grand Final re-match, but four of the past five beaten Grand Finalists have got their revenge the following season. The match will also give the winner a handy early jump on a fellow top-four contender.
Adelaide Crows v Sydney Swans, Round 3, Saturday Afternoon, Adelaide Oval: Adelaide fans have waited well over a year for this – Kurt Tippett’s first match against the Crows. After his unceremonious exit from the club at the end of 2012, Tippett missed Sydney’s only match against Adelaide last year through suspension. And there is a chance he could miss again this year with a knee injury set to delay his start to the season. But if he is declared fit, the passionate Crows fans are sure to give him reception to remember.
Essendon v Carlton, Round 3, Sunday Night, MCG: There’s always plenty on the line when Essendon and Carlton clash at the ‘G and this will be no exception. The Bombers will want to prove a point after Carlton scraped into the finals at their expense last year, while Blues fans will still remember how they twice gave up handy leads against the Bombers in 2013. This match will have huge finals ramifications as well, with both sides tipped to battle it out for a spot in the bottom half of the top eight.
Collingwood v Essendon, Round 6, Friday Afternoon, MCG: The second-biggest match on the AFL calendar after the Grand Final will have extra-special meaning this year on the 100th anniversary of World War I. Collingwood have won six of the past eight Anzac clashes, but the Bombers were for too strong last season with a 46-point win. With both teams tipped to be finals contenders, there will be no lack of motivation for this clash.
Carlton v Collingwood, Round 7, Friday Night, MCG: The two oldest rivals in footy always put on a great show and there is a little extra to this one with Dale Thomas joining Mick Malthouse in crossing the divide to Carlton. After 157 games and a premiership with Collingwood, Thomas is on the black list of Pies fans after he was traded to the Blues. And the Collingwood Army won’t let him forget it.
Sydney Swans v Hawthorn, Round 8, Friday Night, ANZ Stadium: Despite 182 games, 580 games and two premierships for Hawthorn, Lance Franklin is now enemy No.1 with Hawks fans. His big-money, multi-year deal to move north to Sydney was the biggest story of the off-season and the Hawks will have at least two chances this year to vent their feelings – Round 8 in Sydney and Round 18 in Melbourne. And with the two clubs sharing premiership favouritism, both clashes will also have top-four ramifications.
Geelong v Essendon, Round 15, Friday Night, Etihad Stadium: Cats fans still haven’t quite forgiven Mark Thompson for leaving them at the end of the 2010 season, and their displeasure at his defection to Essendon will be amplified this season when he takes on the role of senior coach. The Bombers have won just one of their past nine matches against the Cats and will want a win here with the race for the finals sure to be heating up.
Geelong v Fremantle, Round 20, Saturday Night, Simonds Stadium: The last time these two teams met was the day Geelong’s premiership campaign started to go off course. After the Cats finished in the top two to secure a qualification final at their Simonds Stadium fortress, Fremantle turned the finals series on it’s head with a stunning 15-point win. It was the third time in four matches since Ross Lyon took over that Fremantle have beaten Geelong and the Cats will be after revenge here.