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Carlton are expected to have a bye as early as round two after playing against the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba and then Richmond in the traditional Thursday night match played at the MCG to begin round one.
The Blues will be one of eight teams playing in the AFL’s innovative opening round that will have a bye within the first third of the season, handing their conditioning staff an early-season challenge.
Patrick Cripps is aiming to take the Blues deep into the finals again in 2024Credit: Getty
It means the big-drawing Blues would head into their Good Friday clash with North Melbourne off a 15-day break before heading to Adelaide for Gather Round to take on Fremantle at a neutral venue, the Adelaide Oval.
However, the draw will also give Carlton every chance to back up this year’s top-four finish with a flying start to their 2024 season as they play non-finalists in three of those first four matches with a bye in between.
Four club and industry sources, who could not speak publicly because fixture plans were confidential, said the AFL intends to schedule a bye for each of the eight teams playing opening round in New South Wales and Queensland – the Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Collingwood, the Giants, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Richmond and Sydney – within the first eight rounds.
This would mean every team would have played the same number of games at that point of the season, with all clubs to also have their traditional mid-season bye.
In developing the first 15 rounds, to be released on Thursday, the AFL are also dealing with Marvel Stadium being unavailable for round one due to the Pink concert held midweek, and the need to play a full complement of nine matches in Gather Round, which will be played in Adelaide in round four. They also have two long weekends – over Easter and Anzac Day – within the first seven rounds, which are expected to be nine-match rounds.
Meanwhile, the Western Bulldogs have appointed former Melbourne and Essendon CEO Peter Jackson to assist CEO Ameet Bains to conduct a review into how to integrate their new-look football program with the rest of the club after a number of changes to personnel under coach Luke Beveridge and the program’s return to a redeveloped Whitten Oval.
The Bulldogs are still smarting after missing the finals in 2023, with president Kylie Watson-Wheeler penning a letter to members announcing that the club had six new faces in the football department and the board wanted a review to see “how the club best maximises the opportunities of on-field success”.
The club has never finished in the top four under premiership coach Luke Beveridge, who led the Dogs to a drought breaking flag in 2016 and a grand final in 2021. He is contracted until the end of 2025.
Sydney have also made changes with Leon Cameron becoming the club’s football manager with Charlie Gardiner returning to Melbourne, as expected, while Mark McVeigh will replace Don Pyke as an assistant coach after Pyke became West Coast’s CEO. Gardiner will remain with the club working on legal compliance and commercial projects.
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