A “footy festival” that is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of fans to Melbourne CBD and regional centres will kick off the 2022 AFL season.
- All 14 AFLW round 10 games and five AFL men’s games will be played in Victoria as part of the event
- The men’s season will begin with a rematch of the 2021 grand final between the Demons and Bulldogs
- AFL chief Gillon McLachlan says it is too early to say whether the new Omicron COVID-19 variant will have an impact on crowds
A Wednesday night grand final rematch will launch the AFL men’s competition, with the 10 Victorian AFL teams to play five matches across five days in March.
The Bulldogs will take on the Demons at the MCG on March 16, after Melbourne’s drought-breaking win in Perth this year.
The Demons will have a chance to unfurl their premiership flag at the historical home of the grand final ahead of the game.
The game will be the first of five games in the state across five days, with all 10 Victorian men’s teams participating in the festival.
The AFL said it would be the first time since round 20 of the 2016 season that all 10 Victorian teams would play in the state for the same round.
All 14 AFLW teams will play their round 10 matches in Victoria as part of the event. It will include matches in Geelong and Ballarat, which are expected to drive tourism in the regional cities.
The 2021 AFL and AFLW seasons were heavily disrupted by COVID-19 outbreaks, lockdowns and border closures.
Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula said Victorians were keen to get back to attending sports events.
“We saw it with the Flemington [racing] carnival, we’ll see it in a few weeks with the Boxing Day Test and then the Australian Open,” he said.
“The fact that every Victorian supporter will get a chance to see their team play live is a really great reward for what has been a difficult couple of years.”
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the Wednesday night grand final rematch was not likely to be a permanent fixture.
“I feel it’s a huge way to start the season and then we’ll have a look at it but it’s not a plan to do it more regularly,” he said.
“It’s just a one-off thing to I guess showcase the grand final teams after a unique couple of years.”
McLachlan said it was too early to say whether the recent emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant would have any impact on crowd numbers.
AFL round one fixture:
Wednesday, March 16
- Melbourne v Western Bulldogs, MCG, 7:10pm AEDT
Thursday, March 17
- Carlton v Richmond, MCG, 7:25pm AEDT
Friday, March 18
- St Kilda v Collingwood, Docklands Stadium, 7:50pm AEDT
Saturday, March 19
- Geelong v Essendon, MCG, 2:10pm AEDT
- Greater Western Sydney v Sydney, Sydney’s Olympic stadium, 5:10pm AEDT
- Brisbane v Port Adelaide, Gabba, 7:10pm AEST
Sunday, March 20
- Hawthorn v North Melbourne, MCG, 1:10pm AEDT
- Adelaide v Fremantle, Adelaide Oval, 3:40pm ACDT
- West Coast v Gold Coast, Perth Stadium, 4:40pm AWST