The 2024 AFL fixture has been released. So, to whet your appetite for the upcoming season, we've picked out the five must-watch games from the opening month.
1. Brisbane vs. Collingwood - Round 3, Gabba, Thursday, March 28, 7:30pm (AEDT)
What's not to love about a Grand Final re-match? What's even better is this game hasn't been buried somewhere in the opening round. Instead, the Lions will host the Magpies at the Gabba to kick off Round 3 in what is, without any doubt, the must-watch game of the first month of football.
Obviously there's no premiership cup on the line this time around, but Brisbane will be hellbent on reversing the result of their heartbreaking Grand Final loss -- seriously, just go and re-watch the final two minutes again. For Collingwood, it's an opportunity to continue the pile on and leave more doubts in the mind of Lions players and coaches, well before we get down to the pointy end of the season.
Few would argue these aren't the two best sides in the land, so how could you pass up an opportunity to see them go head-to-head, on a Thursday night, no less? You simply can't!
2. Brisbane vs. Carlton - Opening Round, Gabba, Friday, March 8, 7:40pm (AEDT)
The Blues were somewhat of a trendy, niche pick heading into last season, but there will be plenty picking them to go all the way in 2024 after the club's breakout year under Michael Voss, one which had them playing on preliminary final weekend for the first time in over two decades.
It was the Lions who ended Carlton's fairy-tale season, but that game could very easily have gone in a different direction, particularly after the Blues kicked the first five goals to send the Gabba into disbelief. Carlton will now return to the scene of the heartbreak before we reach Round 1 and you can bet your last dollar these players have already circled it in their calendars.
Both sides play vastly different styles of football and both are among the best handful of teams in the competition. And with Lachie Neale, Patrick Cripps, Charlie Curnow, Charlie Cameron and Sam Walsh, there's stars everywhere you look. Get the popcorn ready.
3. Gold Coast vs. Richmond - Opening Round, Heritage Bank Stadium, Saturday, March 9, 4:20pm (AEST)
Any game involving the Suns is always going to be tough to squeeze into a must-watch list, but this clash against Richmond is as juicy as it gets in the opening month of the season.
Gold Coast poached Damien Hardwick, the Tigers' triple-premiership winning coach, midway through last year and appear to be as close as ever to a maiden finals berth. Meanwhile, Richmond looks to be heading in the opposite direction, finishing bottom six last season and as arguably the most disappointing side in the competition.
Adding to the intrigue is the speculation Tiger superstar Dustin Martin could be set to follow his old coach up north at season's end. And then there's the fact these two clubs seem to consistently play out epic contests -- who could forget Noah Anderson's after-the-siren goal in 2021 or Karmichael Hunt's game-winner in 2012? Don't be mistaken, this one is absolutely must-watch.
4. Port Adelaide vs. Melbourne - Round 3, Adelaide Oval, Saturday, March 30, 7:30pm (AEST)
Both sides had dominant stretches throughout the 2023 season and yet both fell disappointingly short of expectation and promise when the whips were cracking in September. It goes without saying they will both be equally desperate to get off to a flyer next season.
The last time these two sides met, Port's youngsters took it to the Dees in the rain and Zak Butters finished his night with a monster 41 disposals, 18 contested possessions, 10 clearances and two goals. We only have to wait until Round 3 to watch them battle each other once more and you get the feeling it will teach us plenty about both.
Has Port's subpar defence been fixed? Is Clayton Oliver in the right headspace? Was Ollie Wines' horror 2023 an anomaly or now the standard? Is Simon Goodwin still the right man to lead the Demons? So many questions, so many fascinating storylines and, hopefully, one epic game.
5. Adelaide vs. Melbourne - Round 4, Adelaide Oval, Thursday, April 4, 7:40pm (AEDT)
Gather Round was a monumental success in 2023 and it's tipped to be bigger and better in 2024. All 18 clubs will descend on Adelaide for Round 4, which gets underway on a Thursday evening with the Crows and Demons at what is sure to be a sold out Adelaide Oval.
We all fully expect Melbourne to be one of the teams to beat in 2024, but just how good are the Crows? Have they been able to take a leap in the off-season which can catapult them into the top eight? We mustn't forget this side finished last year with an 11-12 record and lost five games by six points or fewer. If they're even a goal-per-game better team in 2024, you have to figure they are, at a minimum, finals bound.
The Crows made a statement on this stage last year by crushing the Blues. If they're able to do something similar this year, there will be more than a few who jump aboard the Adelaide hype train.