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Melbourne Football Club

Melbourne to host Cats in season opener

WEST Coast has beaten Fremantle for the right to host the historic first AFL match at the new $1.5 billion Perth Stadium in round one next year.

The Eagles, who are embarking on a major rebuild with 12 list changes already this off-season, will face Sydney in a twilight game at the 60,000-seat stadium on Sunday, March 25.

>> The full home and away fixture will be released on October 31

A user agreement was finally reached this week that will see the West Australian government pay the WA Football Commission more than $10 million a year for the next decade as part of the deal to leave Domain Stadium.

The first football match at the venue will be an AFL Women's contest involving Fremantle on Saturday, February 10. 

News Corp revealed the 2018 opening round fixtures on Thursday night, with reigning premier Richmond locking horns with Carlton in the traditional opener on March 22. 

The pick of them looks to be between finals contenders Geelong and Melbourne, which may roll out big-name recruits Gary Ablett and Jake Lever for the first time at the MCG on Sunday, March 25. 

Dual Brownlow medallist Ablett last played for the Cats in 2010 before spending the past seven seasons on the Gold Coast, while emerging defender Lever crossed to the Demons from the Crows. 

Essendon's star newcomers Jake Stringer, Devon Smith and Adam Saad are in line to make their Bombers debut under the Friday night lights against Adelaide at Etihad Stadium on March 23.

St Kilda and the Brisbane Lions will meet at Etihad Stadium to kick off four Saturday matches, overlapping with the later-starting Port Adelaide and Fremantle clash at Adelaide Oval. 

North Melbourne is travelling north to take on the Suns at Cazaly's Stadium in Cairns on the Saturday night, with Hawthorn and Collingwood featuring in the same timeslot at the MCG.

Greater Western Sydney welcomes the Western Bulldogs to Canberra in the remaining match on Sunday.

Round one, 2018 fixture (local times)

Thursday, March 22

Richmond v Carlton, MCG, 7.25pm AEDT

Friday, March 23

Essendon v Adelaide, Etihad Stadium, 7.50pm AEDT

Saturday, March 24

St Kilda v Brisbane Lions, Etihad Stadium, 3.35pm AEDT

Port Adelaide v Fremantle, Adelaide Oval, 4.05pm ACDT

Gold Coast v North Melbourne, Cazaly’s Stadium, Cairns, 6.25pm AEST

Hawthorn v Collingwood, MCG, 7.25pm AEDT

Sunday, March 25

Greater Western Sydney v Western Bulldogs, Canberra, 1.10pm AEDT

Melbourne v Geelong, MCG, 3.20pm AEDT

West Coast v Sydney, Perth Stadium, 4.10pm AWDT