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AFLW locks in huge round one fixture

Ben Collins  October 27, 2017 1:34 PM

CARLTON and Collingwood will reprise their historic 2017 clash when they open the 2018 NAB AFL Women's season on February 2.

The Friday night match (7.40pm AEDT) will be played at the Blues' Ikon Park headquarters, where the gates had to be closed after a capacity crowd of some 24,000 turned up for the competition's maiden match.  

The first round continues on Saturday, February 3, with Melbourne facing Greater Western Sydney at Casey Fields in Melbourne's outer south-east (5.05pm AEDT), and Adelaide will unfurl the first AFLW premiership flag in its Grand Final rematch against the Brisbane Lions at Adelaide's Norwood Oval (6.45pm ACDT).  

The Western Bulldogs and Fremantle close the round with a twilight match (4.35pm AEDT) on Sunday February 4 at Whitten Oval.  

The season will again comprise seven rounds and just one final – the Grand Final – which will be played on the afternoon of Saturday, March 24, at a time and venue to be confirmed. The premiership decider will be played during a gap in the AFL round one fixture.  

In announcing the AFLW 2018 fixture, AFL general manager Travis Auld confirmed the highest-placed team would host the Grand Final.  

The women's game will be taken to five new venues, the biggest being the new $1.6 billion Perth Stadium, where Fremantle will host Collingwood in a twilight game (4.10pm WST) on Saturday, February 10.  

Auld said it would be the first sporting event held at the world-class facility (the first AFL match will be played there between West Coast and Sydney on Sunday, March 25) and hoped it would set a new attendance record for AFLW.  

The Dockers and Magpies contest will be the only game in which spectators will need to pay a nominal entry fee. There will be free entry to all other home and away games.  

The other four new venues are TIO Traeger Park in Alice Springs (Melbourne v Collingwood on Saturday, February 24), Sydney's Drummoyne Oval (GWS v Carlton on Friday, February 9), Brisbane's Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex (Brisbane Lions v Collingwood on Saturday, March 10) and Ted Summerton Reserve in Moe (Collingwood v Western Bulldogs on Sunday, March 4).  

Other features of the fixture include:  
• Four clubs (Adelaide, Melbourne, Fremantle and GWS) will each play four home games while the rest (Brisbane, Collingwood, Carlton and the Bulldogs) will host three games apiece. 
• Games will predominantly be played on Friday nights, Saturday twilight, Saturday night and Sunday twilight. 
• All teams will have a minimum of six days' break between games. 
• Unlike last season, there won't be any double-headers with the AFL JLT Community Series.  

"If we can start the season with Carlton and Collingwood with a crowd similar to last year, it will be a great spectacle," Auld said.  

The decision not to incorporate a semi-final was a timing issue, he said, with the AFL reluctant to push the Grand Final back in to Easter.  

"We didn't think that would be the ideal outcome for providing fans with the opportunity to come to the game if they've already got plans around Easter. Largely we start from the position of what's the best thing for our supporters, who've been so wonderful," Auld said.  

He said the fixture would likely change with an expanded competition in 2019 and that conferences would be considered.  

Auld said that an "extraordinary" inaugural season had attracted 195,000 to games and a further 5.6 million television viewers.  

He highlighted the growth of the women's game, saying that since the 2017 season had finished in March the AFL has overseen a revamped elite under-18s competition, the first State of Origin game, the first trade and free agency period, another draft, and had announced plans to expand the competition in 2019 and 2020.  

All 28 home and away games will be broadcast live on Channel Seven and on Foxtel, and will also be available on the AFL Live app and on AFL.com.au.