Fans fume over 'ridiculous' AFL draw for 2019

The AFL have banished lowly Carlton and St Kilda from the prime-time fixture slots, while rewarding Collingwood and banking on Essendon.

For the first time since 1990, not one side that finished 14th or lower from the previous season will play on a Friday night in the season following.

So for Fremantle, Brisbane, Gold Coast, St Kilda and Carlton, that means the AFL has delivered them a devastating blow.

“A fixture gets easier when you’ve got a Collingwood playing good football and you’ve got what looks like the re-emergence of Essendon coming through,” AFL fixture boss Travis Auld said.

Collingwood have been rewarded by the AFL’s prime-time heavy focus in the fixtures. Pic: Getty

Collingwood have a whopping seven Friday night games, two more than any other club, while Essendon have four despite dropping out of the top eight this season.

“When it’s a team like Collingwood – such a big club, such a big supporter base – you have to take advantage of that,” Auld said of the losing grand finalists.

“There’s a lot of expectation around Essendon coming into next season and they’ve been rewarded.”

He also smiled when asked if he felt the AFL had nailed next season’s fixture, saying he was “incredibly confident”.

But not all fans agree:

Fremantle and Gold Coast join the Saints as the only clubs without Thursday or Friday night games.

The clubs with five-day breaks will have long breaks either side of the short turnaround as compensation.

The league also took the unprecedented step of potentially swapping two round-nine games, should Melbourne Victory loom as potential hosts of the A-League grand final.

AFL General Manager Clubs and Broadcasting Travis Auld speaks with media during the AFL China Match Announcement at the Facing Heaven Archway on October 25, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

The two floating round-nine games is a first for the AFL – usually, only round 23 is kept open.

Essendon’s Saturday night match against Fremantle will swap with Sunday’s Port Adelaide-Coast match should Victory host the A-League decider.

The AFL has scheduled Thursday night matches in each of the five opening rounds in 2019, and eight overall, in a move certain to please broadcasters.

Dylan Shiel’s arrival at Essendon has boosted the Bombers hopes of a successful 2019 campaign. Pic: Getty

Richmond will play under lights on Thursday at the MCG in the opening two rounds against traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood, and again in round 13 away to Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.

Anzac Day also falls on a Thursday in 2019, when the Bombers will host the Magpies in the annual daytime fixture.

West Coast will unfurl the 2018 premiership flag at Optus Stadium against GWS in round two before heading to the MCG for a rematch of the 2018 grand final against Collingwood.

with AAP.