Cats to wait for AFL grand final revenge

Oliver Caffrey and Shayne Hope
·3-min read

Geelong will have to wait until round eight to seek revenge for this year's grand final defeat to Richmond in the AFL's newly-released 2021 fixture.

The league has unveiled match-ups for all 23 rounds but dates and times only for the first six.

A floating fixture is in place from round seven onwards with the AFL opting for flexibility due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19 disruption.

The Tigers are scheduled to host Geelong at the MCG on the weekend of May 7-9.

Richmond secured their third premiership in four seasons when they beat the Cats by 31 points in October's historic 2020 decider at the Gabba.

Monday's fixture release comes a day after the AFL filtered out details of the opening round, confirming games would return to Victoria for the first time since July.

The league has experimented with Thursday night football during the past decade and the timeslot will get even more exposure in 2021 with up to nine of the stand-alone games.

The first five rounds of the season will all kick-off on Thursday nights, with Victorian powerhouses Richmond, Carlton and Collingwood all featuring in two games each.

The other Thursday night fixtures will be scheduled around the bye rounds (12-14) in order to limit the impact on teams of short breaks between matches.

Blockbusters will be back at the MCG, including the now traditional Richmond-Carlton season opener and Collingwood-Essendon Anzac Day fixture.

Games will also return to Canberra and Tasmania after those destinations saw no men's football played there in 2020 due to the pandemic.

"Bringing footy back to capital cities that faced a very uncertain and challenging time this year due to the COVID will be uplifting for not only the fans in those states, but also for the teams themselves," AFL fixture boss Travis Auld said.

"We begin season 2021 with a renewed level of optimism, focusing on delivering fans a blockbuster schedule of matches to open the season."

The AFL is putting together a report on the 2020 grand final, which was played under lights for the first time, and the decider's timeslot will be on the agenda early next year.

Auld forecast a decision on the 2021 grand final time would be made in March or April.

All going to plan, home-and-away season fixtures will be released in four to six-round blocks throughout next year.

"It will depend a little bit how the season is looking and the environment in each state as to whether we need to keep that period a little shorter than you might otherwise," Auld said.

A 'footy frenzy' like the one held in Queensland this year - when 33 games were played in 20 days - is a possibility next year if the AFL needs to cram matches into a shorter time frame.

Hubs are also an option if required to complete the season.

"We've certainly got options in the sense that we know we can put clubs into high performance centres or hubs," Auld said.

"We know we can compress the season if we need to.

"At the moment we've released a fixture based on a standard format of 22 games over 23 weeks and it's our intention to execute that, but it would be silly not to go in knowing that we might need options at points in time."