AFL
Jason Phelan 19d

Winners and losers as AFL announce fixture

AFL

Richmond, Carlton and Collingwood have reason to be happy, but Sydney and Hawthorn are putting on a brave face after the AFL released the fixture for the 2018 season on Tuesday.

The league does its best to be fair to each club, but there are inevitably winners and losers in an 18-team competition with a 22-game season.

As premiers, the Tigers have rightfully returned to primetime with eight Thursday and Friday night encounters and will be happy to only play two teams from this year's top six - Adelaide and Geelong - twice.

The Pies will play five of their first six games at the MCG - with 17 of their matches in Victoria - and will only play two teams that finished in the top 12 from this season twice.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan denied Collingwood, who finished 13th this season, had been gifted a soft run to the finals after a four-year absence.

"Maybe on paper but they've got to get out there and do it," McLachlan said.

"I think everyone understands the pressures and the challenges that Collingwood have got next year.

"I don't think anyone thought that Richmond were going to be tough to beat this year and everyone will have a different view about what will happen next year."

The AFL uses the big stage of Friday night football as a reward for well-performed teams each year.

Top-six sides Adelaide, the Swans and the Tigers have the most with five, but in a bizarre move Carlton, who finished 16th, were gifted four in addition to their Thursday night season-opener against Richmond.

"It's probably one or two more than we had anticipated," AFL fixturing boss Travis Auld said.

"But that's how it rolls out sometimes."

Greater Western Sydney and West Coast, who both played finals this year, and up-and-comers Melbourne were each granted just one Friday night match next season.

The Giants and Sydney have been handed tough draws, in that they are the only teams to play three top-six sides twice.

Hawthorn also have a challenging draw with the Hawks to play Geelong, Sydney, Essendon and St Kilda twice. They also face a tricky month leading into the finals series.

Perhaps the most important aspect of fixturing for coaches given the gruelling nature and length of the season is the number of six-day breaks.

The Swans have the most with eight, with the Tigers and Blues next with seven, while Gold Coast has the fewest with three.

"Sydney have eight six-day breaks because they play a lot of Thursday and Friday nights and that creates those shorter breaks," Auld said.

"It's really good for them from a commercial perspective."

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