MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The Australian Football League will open its season reboot with a so-called blockbuster between defending champion Richmond and Collingwood on June 11 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The Aussie rules season was suspended on March 22 after one round because of restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic. With restrictions gradually easing in Australia, football is starting to make a comeback.
The National Rugby League kicks off again this week after a two-month break. Rugby union is set to relaunch in Australia in July and soccer’s A-League is aiming to get its season running again, too. So far, the NRL and AFL plan to play in empty stadiums, but remain hopeful fans will be allowed back before the end of the season.
“To re-launch the season we have focused on scheduling blockbuster match-ups across these four weeks, particularly in the Thursday and Friday night prime-time slots,” AFL general manager for clubs and broadcasting, Travis Auld, said Monday as he announced the revised schedule for rounds 2-5.
Geelong and Hawthorn will met on Friday, June 12, and the Adelaide derby between the Crows and Port is among four matches on June 13 before the two South Australian clubs transfer to the Gold Coast hub for the remaining three games of the first phase of the season restart. The Sydney Swans and Essendon will meet in an afternoon match in Sydney on June 14.
West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers from Western Australia state will play all matches from rounds 2-5 in either Brisbane or the Gold Coast, where they'll be based and where the two South Australian clubs will also be relocate after the opener at the Adelaide Oval.
“As we navigate through the remaining 108 games plus finals, we will continue to be adaptable with our scheduling, ensuring our fixtures align with the relevant state government restrictions in place at the time," Auld said.
The AFL, Australia’s most-watched sports league in terms of attendance and TV audience, has been shorted to 17 rounds and has scheduled the Grand Final for Oct. 24, more than a month later than usual.
Richmond opened the season against Carlton at an empty Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 19 because of restrictions on gatherings in the pandemic. That was a week after the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne was canceled.
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