2022 AFL season: Grand final rematch to kick off Victorian ‘Footy Festival’

2022 AFL season Grand final rematch to kick off Victorian Footy Festival 1

The 2022 AFL season is set to get in progress with a Victorian ‘Footy Festival’ that will see every one of the 10 Victorian teams playing at home in Round 1. A “footy festival” that is relied upon to carry a huge number of fans to Melbourne CBD and regional centres will kick off the 2022 AFL season.

A Wednesday night grand final rematch will launch the AFL men’s competition, with the 10 Victorian AFL teams to play five matches across five days in March.

Reigning premiers Melbourne will open the season with a grand final rematch against the Western Bulldogs, with the AFL splitting away from the traditional Carlton-Richmond curtain-raiser at the MCG.

It will be the first time since Round 20 of the 2016 season where every one of the 10 Victorian AFL clubs will play matches in their home state in something very similar round.

The Victorian ‘Footy Festival’ will initiate on March 11, when each of the 14 AFLW sides plays their matches in the state until March 13, before the AFL season opener on March 16.

“The footy festival will bring people together and be able to give all Victorians and footy fans from regional Victoria and interstate an opportunity to come to a game and see their AFLW and AFL teams across 10 days is a significant step bouncing back from a challenging year,” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said in a statement.

“We want to get big crowds back to the footy, the weekly ritual of being able to go to a game and the sense of community it creates, connecting families and friends is something we have missed in the state.

“We look forward to seeing fans return to our venues in huge numbers as well as to all the surrounding business and venues that rely on footy and big events being staged across the city.

“To finish our NAB AFLW season in Victoria and have these matches possibly determine final placings is huge, and then launch the biggest start to an AFL season ever, including our first-ever Wednesday night season opener is going to give us a lot of momentum for the season ahead.

“Footy can hopefully help bring the heartbeat of the city back to Melbourne and back to the state of Victoria.”

The Bulldogs will take on the Demons at the MCG on March 16, after Melbourne’s drought-breaking win in Perth this year.

The Demons will get an opportunity to spread out their premiership flag at the historical home of the grand final ahead of the game.

The game will be the first of five games in the state across five days, with each of the 10 Victorian men’s teams partaking in the festival.

The AFL said it would be the first time since round 20 of the 2016 season that every one of the 10 Victorian teams would play in the state for something very similar round.

Every one of the 14 AFLW teams will play their round 10 matches in Victoria as part of the event. It will incorporate matches in Geelong and Ballarat, which are relied upon to drive tourism in the regional cities.

The 2021 AFL and AFLW seasons were vigorously disturbed by COVID-19 outbreaks, lockdowns, and border closures.

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula said Victorians were quick to return to going to sports events.

“We saw it with the Flemington [racing] carnival, we’ll see it in a few weeks with the Boxing Day Test and then the Australian Open,” he said.

“But footy holds a special place in the hearts of Victorians.

“The fact that every Victorian supporter will get a chance to see their team play live is a really great reward for what has been a difficult couple of years.”

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the Wednesday night grand final rematch was not liable to be a permanent fixture.

“I feel it’s a huge way to start the season and then we’ll have a look at it but it’s not a plan to do it more regularly,” he said.

“It’s just a one-off thing to I guess showcase the grand final teams after a unique couple of years.”

McLachlan said it was too soon to say whether the new development of the Omicron COVID-19 variant would only affect crowd numbers.

AFL round one fixture:

Wednesday, March 16

Melbourne v Western Bulldogs, MCG, 7:10 pm AEDT

Thursday, March 17

Carlton v Richmond, MCG, 7:25 pm AEDT

Friday, March 18

St Kilda v Collingwood, Docklands Stadium, 7:50 pm AEDT

Saturday, March 19

Geelong v Essendon, MCG, 2:10 pm AEDT
Greater Western Sydney v Sydney, Sydney’s Olympic stadium, 5:10 pm AEDT
Brisbane v Port Adelaide, Gabba, 7:10 pm AEST

Sunday, March 20

Hawthorn v North Melbourne, MCG, 1:10 pm AEDT
Adelaide v Fremantle, Adelaide Oval, 3:40 pm ACDT
West Coast v Gold Coast, Perth Stadium, 4:40 pm AWST