AFL Round 1 Preview & Fixture

 Footy is back and the 2016 AFL home-and-away season kicks off with the traditional season opener between Richmond and Carlton at the MCG on Thursday night.
The Tigers will return to the scene of their infamous finals exit from last year but head in as hot favourites against the Blues, who were wooden spooners in 2015.
Brendan Bolton makes his debut as coach for Carlton and the Blues are expected to name a number of fresh faces including the No. 1 draft pick from the 2015 AFL Draft, Jacob Weitering.
There are nine games on the weekend, stretching across from Thursday night to Easter Monday, when the Geelong Cats take on Hawthorn at the MCG. That game pits two modern day rivals against each other and shapes as the match of the round.
The Cats will unveil their gun recruit, Patrick Dangerfield, and are expected to name Lachie Henderson and Zac Smith while the Hawks will be aiming to get off to a flyer in their quest for a history making fourth premiership in a row.
With no matches scheduled for Good Friday, the remaining games will be played out over Easter Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday there will be four games, starting off with what looks to be a very intriguing encounter between Melbourne and the GWS Giants.
Both sides impressed with their NAB Challenge form, particularly Melbourne, who were unbeaten in the pre-season competition. However, the Demons head in as slight underdogs against the Giants, who are expected to challenge strongly for finals this year.
Following this, the Gold Coast Suns host Essendon at Metricon Stadium. The Suns start strong favourites against the depleted Bombers lineup that lost 12 of their most experienced players at the start of the year due to a suspension handed down by WADA for their role in the clubs 2012 supplements programme.
On Saturday night, there are two matches with the Sydney Swans taking on Collingwood at the SCG, while North Melbourne host the Adelaide Crows at Etihad Stadium.
Collingwood were another side that impressed in the off-season, while the Swans were a bit scratchy early on in the NAB Challenge but began to hit their straps. Lance Franklin will be a welcome addition for the boys from the harbour city.
After making the Preliminary Finals last year, North Melbourne head into their encounter against the Crows as favourites, but this one should be a close one. Don Pyke makes his debut in the coaching box for the visitors.
On Sunday, there are three games, starting off with the Western Bulldogs vs. Fremantle clash at Etihad Stadium, while Port Adelaide take on St Kilda at the Adelaide Oval. These two encounters are followed by the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Lions game in Perth.
Thursday March 24
Richmond v Carlton at MCG (7.20pm)
Saturday March 26
Melbourne v GWS Giants at MCG (1.40pm)
Gold Coast Suns v Essendon at Metricon Stadium (4.35pm)
Sydney Swans v Collingwood at ANZ Stadium (7.25pm)
North Melbourne v Adelaide at Etihad Stadium (7.25pm)
Sunday March 27
Western Bulldogs v Fremantle at Etihad Stadium (1.10pm)
Port Adelaide v St Kilda at Adelaide Oval (3.20pm)
West Coast Eagles v Brisbane Lions at Subiaco Oval (7.40pm)
Monday March 28
Geelong v Hawthorn at MCG (3.20pm)


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