AFL prepares for record crowds in 2022
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has raised the possibility of breaking the record for the largest home-and-away crowd ever when Melbourne unfurl their premiership flag.
The Demons will open the 2022 AFL season with a blockbuster clash with the Western Bulldogs to kick off a March football feast in Victoria.
Fans starved of live action during COVID-19 lockdowns this year are being enticed back to venues, with all 10 Victorian teams playing in Melbourne in round one.
The Demons-Bulldogs clash - a re-match of September's grand final - will be played on a Wednesday night (March 16) at the MCG.
Carlton and Richmond will play their traditional Thursday night match in round one, followed by St Kilda hosting Collingwood on Friday night.
Geelong and Essendon will meet in their feature 'Country Game' on Saturday and Hawthorn take on North Melbourne on Sunday.
"I know there's a bit of pain for people, a bit of a loss, particularly for the Melbourne supporters, but also for the Bulldogs supporters, who didn't get to see the grand final (at the MCG)," AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told reporters on Saturday.
"The more we talked about it, starting with the grand-final rematch made sense.
"We like the Carlton-Richmond slot on Thursday night, that's got its own tradition and momentum now after about 15 years.
"The feedback from Melbourne supporters is really strong and I reckon we're going to have huge games right the way through and we'll go close to selling out that Wednesday night.
"There's a chance I think we have the biggest home-and-away crowd we've ever had in Melbourne, I really feel that's a strong possibility."
The best home-and-away crowd was way back in 1958 when 99256 fans turned out to see Melbourne play Collingwood at the MCG.
The rest of the opening round fixture has also been released, with the eight non-Victorian clubs all playing each other.
GWS will host arch-rivals the Sydney Swans in a rematch of this year's classic elimination final which the Giants won by a point.
It will be the first match played at Sydney's Olympic Stadium since 2016.
Sydney superstar Lance Franklin needs just five goals to reach the magical 1000-mark and the AFL is expected to book the Swans in for a round-two home match at the SCG in anticipation of the milestone.
Top-four sides Brisbane and Port Adelaide will face-off at the Gabba, while Adelaide-Fremantle and West Coast-Gold Coast matches will round out the bumper weekend.
Victoria's "footy festival" will also see all 14 AFLW teams play their round-10 matches across the state, beginning on March 11 and leading into a six-team finals series the following week.
In total, there will be 12 men's and women's matches in Victoria across a 10-day period.
AFL ROUND ONE
Wednesday, March 16
Melbourne v Western Bulldogs (MCG)
Thursday, March 17
Carlton v Richmond (MCG)
Friday, March 18
St Kilda v Collingwood (Marvel Stadium)
Saturday, March 19
Geelong v Essendon (MCG)
GWS v Sydney Swans (Accor Stadium)
Brisbane Lions v Port Adelaide (Gabba)
GWS v Sydney
Sunday, March 20
Hawthorn v North Melbourne (MCG)
Adelaide v Fremantle (Adelaide Oval)
West Coast v Gold Coast (Optus Stadium)
AFLW ROUND 10:
Geelong v GWS (GMHBA Stadium)
North Melbourne v West Coast (Arden Street)
Melbourne v Carlton (Casey Fields)
Collingwood v Gold Coast (Victoria Park)
St Kilda v Adelaide (RSEA Park)
Richmond v Brisbane (Punt Road)
Western Bulldogs v Fremantle (Mars Stadium)
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails