29/05/2024

There are plenty of must watch games in the 2023 fixture. (Photos: AFL/ North Melbourne FC / Port Adelaide FC / Adelaide Crows FC )

With the fixture released and footy fans keen to plan their schedules around their team’s games, The Inner Sanctum has had a look at the must-watch games for your club.

Round 1 vs GWS Giants – A Giant ask

The Crows have had trouble with one opponent over the last few years despite some pleasing team results at home and that is the GWS Giants.

In Round 7 last season after a run of impressive performances for the Crows, it was the Giants that doused their enthusiasm with a 59-point thumping at Adelaide Oval, this followed their 2021 loss to the Giants by 67 points in a one-sided affair.

If Adelaide is serious about its finals aspirations in the next season or so it must put wins like this on the board when they play the Giants away from home in 2023.

Round 3 vs Port Adelaide – Showdown 53

When there’s a Showdown, it’s sure to be a match worth watching no matter where the Adelaide Crows or Port Adelaide are on the ladder. Last season the two Showdowns yielded two very different results with the Crows winning in a thriller and the Power taking bragging rights in Round 23 in a convincing win.

Round 5 vs Carlton – Kicking off Gather Round

With Gather Round being added to the fixture for 2023, there will be plenty of must-watch games for South Australians and football fanatics who might travel over.

One game that will be on that list will be the Crows’ match-up with the Blues which kicks off the round from Adelaide Oval on a Thursday night.

Having played twice last season, the home teams took home the win in 2022 but who will get the win in their only meeting in 2023?

Round 21 vs Gold Coast Suns – Izak Rankine vs the Suns

The trade between the Gold Coast Suns and the Crows was pretty simple however the Suns were not overly happy with the young forward’s desire to leave to return home.

In a move that was inspired by his wish to play in front of a passionate home crowd including friends and family, Rankine will meet his former teammates for the first time to resume hostilities.

Madeline Irwin

Round 3 vs Western Bulldogs – trade period jostling moves on field

After the Lions secured one of the coups of the Trade Period when they successfully traded for gun midfielder Josh Dunkley, the bright lights and the spotlight will be on early in the season as the jostling shifts from the trade table to a Round 3 blockbuster at Marvel Stadium.

Both sides have traded wins over the previous five encounters across Marvel Stadium, the Gabba, and Ballarat. The added layer of the Dunkley move no doubt gives this early-season clash some extra spice.

Round 4 vs Collingwood – Holy Thursday at the Gabba

The traditional clash with Collingwood on Easter Thursday has grown in stature with the rise of the Lions year after year adding to the blockbuster nature of the clash.

With Collingwood exceeding expectations in 2022, this corresponding game last season was one where it started showing signs of what it would be capable of as the season wore on under Craig McRae as it kept on punching back against Brisbane before falling just 7 points short.

With both sides coming off heartbreaking Preliminary Final losses last season, the early season clash against one another is a great early season litmus test to asses their premiership credentials against another side that will be around the mark come season’s end.

Round 10 – QClash

It’s a fixture the Lions have dominated recently, winning the last five games and 17 of the 23 QClashes that have been played. But the rising Suns continue to pose challenges and like any local derby, it’s a game that the Lions will have pencilled in to see who the Kings of Queensland are for 2023.

Round 16 vs Richmond – Will they reprise that ridiculous Gabba final?

Remember that crazy Elimination Final? The one where it was a scorefest, Lachie Neale didn’t go off the ground after quarter time putting in one of the all-time great finals games and the score review played up on that shot at goal from Tom Lynch. What about their previous match at the MCG when the Lions looked set to end their MCG hoodoo before the Tigers came rollicking home to snatch it late? Both were crackers.

These two sides certainly provided the entertainment last season and their Round 16 clash looms as one of the big, defining mid-season blockbusters that could shape the finals race.

Jono Baruch

Round 1 vs Richmond – Opening night

Can they do it again?

The Michael Voss era started on the best possible note last season when the Blues broke a 10-year opening-round drought, notching their first win over Richmond since the 2013 Elimination Final.

Back to the traditional season opener this year, the traditional rivals have put on some entertaining yet largely one-sided affairs in recent seasons but with the Blues tipped to be on the rise again, the Tigers beefing up their midfield and no shortage of spice after last seasons mid-year fixture, the crowds will be out in force.

The importance of opening night is amplified for the Blues this season, season 2022 marked the first time since 2012 that Carlton didn’t start the season 0-2. 

With a date with the reigning premiers in Round 2 a week later at the MCG, a win on opening night is even more critical for Carlton if it wishes to meet expectations in 2023.

Round 4 vs North Melbourne – Good Friday

The Blues are the prime-time kings early in the season and have scored a big coup by being placed in the Good Friday timeslot this season, replacing the Western Bulldogs.

Carlton easily accounted for North Melbourne last season by 50 points at Marvel Stadium but despite the comfortable result last season, the Blues have never gotten over the Roos easily, with the 2022 victory only the second against North Melbourne since 2014.

Good Friday will likely be North Melbourne’s only prime-time game of the season and coach Alastair Clarkson will have his young charges well-prepared to cause a boilover with recent history in mind.

Round 10 vs Collingwood

It’s one of the first games circled and marked in the calendars for both sets of fans. Only this year, there’s extra meaning and spice for Carlton fans.

Carlton lost both games to Collingwood last season by a collective five points last season, with the one-point loss in round 23 consigning the Blues to missing out on finals after the Pies staged another stunning final-quarter comeback.

2022 saw this famous old rivalry get life breathed back into it both on and off the field. With both sides looking to contend again, with recent history not far in the rearview mirror, Round 10 on Sunday afternoon at the MCG will be an appointment viewing for all fans.

Round 14 vs Gold Coast – new ground in growing tussle

For the first time since Gold Coast entered the competition in 2011, it will play Carlton at the MCG. Having hosted the Suns at Marvel all six times the two sides have played in Melbourne, the Suns will play its only game at the MCG in 2023 against the Blues.

The Suns have enjoyed playing the Blues, winning two of the side’s most recent clashes and closely shading the Blues 7-9 on the overall Head to Head.

It looms as an important game in the context of both teams’ seasons with both clubs in pursuit of finals berths at a critical juncture of the season.

Jono Baruch

Round 1 vs Geelong – Looking to dethrone the Cats

Collingwood gets its season underway against reigning premiers Geelong. The last time these two sides met was in the first week of finals, where the Pies got a taste of what it was like to be on the other side of a close game, going down by just a goal despite leading the whole match.

If he gets selected, all eyes will be on former Pie Ollie Henry, who requested a trade to Geelong so he could play alongside his brother Jack.

Round 5 vs St Kilda – Gather Round

In the inaugural Gather Round, Collingwood takes on St Kilda, making it the first time that the Pies will play a team at Adelaide Oval that isn’t from South Australia.

Since their victory against the Saints in the 2010 grand final replay, these sides have played each other 13 times, with the Pies leading the head-to-head with 10 wins. The addition of this round means it will also be the first time the Pies will play in Adelaide three times in a season.

Round 8 vs Sydney – Swans come to Melbourne

When Collingwood meets Sydney in Round 8, it’ll be almost 10 years to the day since these sides last faced off at the MCG, the Swans downing the Pies by 47 points that night.

After falling short of the grand final in their last encounter, the Pies will be out for revenge on their home soil. Scott Pendlebury, Jamie Elliott, and Steele Sidebottom are the only Collingwood players on the current list that also played in that game back in 2013.

Round 13 vs Melbourne – King’s Birthday

The King’s birthday clash between rivals Collingwood and Melbourne is a blockbuster game that is guaranteed to draw a large crowd. In recent years, the addition of the Big Freeze event has become a staple of this fixture, with it being one of the key draw cards for the day.

Not much can overshadow such a wonderful cause, but with former Magpie Brodie Grundy set to face his old side for the first time since being traded to the Dees, expect fans to fill the MCG for what will become an even bigger event.

Monique Quercio 

Round 1 vs traditional rivals Hawthorn

Fresh in the minds of all Essendon supporters is Round 1, 2021, when the club blew a six-goal half-time lead to Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium. The Dons have been fixtured against the Hawks in Round 1 again – this time at the MCG – and it’s the perfect opportunity to get the Brad Scott era off on the right foot against the traditional rival.

Hawthorn has gutted its list, trading veterans Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara, and Jack Gunston in the off-season. It will be one of the youngest teams in the league with very little depth in the engine room to start the season off, so a win is a non-negotiable for a Bombers side with a new lease on life.

Round 6 vs Collingwood – ANZAC Day

Gather Round rolls into a 10-day break for the Dons before they take on the Pies in the biggest home-and-away fixture on the calendar, ANZAC Day. 95,000 fans surrounding the hallowed MCG turf has proved the perfect litmus test in recent years – the Bombers dominated through Darcy Parish and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti in 2021, leading to an unlikely finals appearance for the rebuilding club.

They also couldn’t get across the line in 2022, then followed it up later in the year with a heartbreaking loss to Jamie Elliott on the siren – summing up a disastrous campaign. The Pies are a premiership fancy, so ANZAC Day will be a mammoth task early in the season.

Round 10 vs Richmond – Dreamtime at the ‘G

Dreamtime at the ‘G has been devoid of success for the Dons of late. They haven’t won on the stage since 2014, and have lost their last 13 games to the Tigers. It’s an embarrassing record that the Bombers simply must rectify.

With an influx of Indigenous talent onto the list in the Davey twins and Anthony Munkara, plus the return of beloved cult figure McDonald-Tipungwuti, the Bombers are in a position to do justice to the stage that they are so fortunate to be a part of each year.

Round 21 vs West Coast at home after five years

The last time Essendon played West Coast in Victoria for premiership points was in 2017, when the Dons ran riot and kicked 19 goals. They will have played seven straight games against the Eagles in the West, so a Marvel Stadium hitout is a welcome sight for supporters.

This will be the second game of 2023 against West Coast, who are entering a full-scale rebuild. It’s one of the best opportunities for a home win on the calendar.

Jasper Chellappah

Round 3 vs West Coast – Western Derby

When speaking of Fremantle, it would be remiss to not start with its Round 3 matchup against the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium. ‘The Western Derby’ has been dominated by the Eagles over the years, but the tides have turned now with the Dockers shaping as the better side by quite a margin.

The Dockers will be glad to see the first of two Eagles clashes falling this early in the year, and will hope that it will be one of a few strong results to begin their campaign.

Round 11 vs Melbourne – Luke Jackson meets his old side

Off the back of two brilliant contests last year, where they beat the Demons convincingly at the MCG before having the favour returned weeks later at Optus Stadium, Fremantle’s clash with Melbourne at the MCG in Round 11 is sure to be an interesting affair.

The Dockers had a pretty impressive record at the ‘G last season and to climb even further up the ladder, a win in this game would go a long way given both teams are expected to be in and around the top four once again.

Round 17 vs Carlton – Close encounters

A rivalry of sorts has been forged between Fremantle and Carlton over the years, with the Blues snatching many tight wins from the Dockers over the years. The two sides each had a comfortable win against each other in their two matches last season.

This game will once again be a hugely anticipated one, especially now given that both teams have high expectations for 2023. Should both teams live up to the expectations, this game will end up being a must-win for either team, as it could have a direct effect on their finishing positions.

Round 18 vs Collingwood – Finals revenge

The Dockers suffered two disappointing losses at the hands of the Magpies in 2022, one of those being the semi-final defeat that sent them packing. They will be out for revenge at the MCG in Round 18, and much like the Carlton matchup, it could end up being a crucial victory for either side given where they are expected to finish.

A win for Freo would definitely signify improvement given how they went down to the Magpies on multiple occasions last year.

Round 24 – Hawthorn at the ‘G

Hawthorn hosting Fremantle at the MCG doesn’t seem as important as any of the other games on paper, but the underlying story is quite intriguing. The last time Fremantle played Hawthorn at the ‘G, it was handed a 58-point drubbing in Round 3 of 2014. This was no less than six months after their 15-point Grand Final defeat to the Hawks.

Since then, the two sides have not met at the ground and the Dockers will be looking to avenge those two losses in their return, thus carrying some momentum into what is expected to be a second consecutive finals appearance.

Brandon Patane

Round 1 vs Collingwood – Defending the crown against the Pies

MCG, primetime. Probably the game of the finals series last year was between Geelong and Collingwood, so if this game is anywhere near that level of intensity, it will be an absolute beauty.

The Cats will be keen to start their premiership defence off in style, whilst the Pies will want to show the competition that last year was no fluke. Here’s hoping Ollie Henry gets a game for the Cats too, which would only add an extra layer of intrigue to the game.

Round 4 vs Hawthorn – Easter Monday battle

Despite Hawthorn rebuilding in 2022, and Geelong eventually going on to win the flag, the Hawks still took it up to the Cats and won the traditional Easter Monday contest.

Ladder position means nothing when it comes to this fixture, with the rivalry over the past 15 years ensuring it is a must-watch fixture.

If the Hawks can win a couple of their first three games, that should make the contest even more interesting.

Round 6 vs Sydney – Grand final rematch

What better way to rub it in the faces of your grand final foes and unfurl your premiership flag when you next meet?

There will be plenty to celebrate when Geelong play its first game of the season at the newly developed GMHBA stadium, and there is sure to be plenty of fire in the game too, with Sydney keen to put in a decent effort, following its grand final debacle.

Round 18 vs Essendon – Bombers in Geelong

Ignoring the Covid year of 2021, when games were played anywhere, anytime with no crowds, this will mark the first time a packed stadium down the highway will see the Bombers come to town since 1993.

With the Bombers sporting a large supporter base and hopefully chasing a finals spot come round 18, this could game could provide the biggest crowd in the history of the stadium.

Round 23 vs St Kilda – Saints under the roof

Not many would mark this down as a fixture highlight – the Saints at Marvel Stadium in the second last round.

The last side to beat Geelong, however, prior to their 16-game winning streak to win the flag, was the Saints. That is sure to be a sticking point in the minds of the Geelong players, as it was the last time they were truly outrun and beaten convincingly.

Imagine if the Cats are undefeated at this point of the season.

Scott Kertes

Round 1 vs Sydney – Setting the tone for 2023

A clash against last season’s runner-ups will see Gold Coast aim to start its 2023 season on the right foot. After missing out on finals actions last season, the Suns’ hopes for a strong start come in the form of the Sydney Swans.

This match-up will be intriguing as the Swans will also be looking to start 2023 off right following their disappointing grand final loss.

Round 3 vs Geelong – Facing the reigning premiers

For the Gold Coast Suns, this will be one of their toughest games in the fixture.

Hosting the Cats at Metricon Stadium, the Suns will meet against the reigning premiership winners. The Suns will be looking to avenge a brutal 60-point loss that occurred the last time the two sides met.

Round 12 vs Adelaide – Suns v Rankine

This round will mark the first of two meetings with the Adelaide Crows. With the Suns claiming victory the last time they met in 2022, they will be aiming to continue their winning ways in Darwin.

Plus, a layer of intrigue will be injected into this clash following Izak Rankine’s move to the Crows. This will no doubt be one of the games to watch.

Round 20 – QClash

The QClash will make for interesting viewing in 2023, given how well the two sides performed last season. The Gold Coast Suns will be hoping to avenge their 17-point loss against the Lions when these two sides meet again in round 20.

Round 24 vs North Melbourne – Suns head to Tasmania

Gold Coast will play North Melbourne at Blundstone Arena to close out the regular season campaign. It’s the second year in a row that the Suns play the Kangaroos.

The Suns will be wanting to end the regular season on a high.

Ashleigh Matosevic

Round 1 vs Adelaide – Entering a new era

Round one marks a new era for the Giants with round one marking the first game with new coach Adam Kingsley when they host the Adelaide Crows at Giants Stadium.

It could be the first time that fans see a glimpse of number one draft pick Aaron Cadman and new recruit Toby Bedford.

Round 7 vs Sydney –  Battle of the Bridge

The Giants won’t have to wait long until they come up against cross-town rivals, the Sydney Swans, with the Battle of the Bridge set to take place in Round Seven.

While the last time the two sides it was a convincing 73-point win to the Swans, with a new-looking side, the Giants will be looking to take it up to their rivals in 2023.

Round 12 vs Richmond – Taranto and Hopper return to Giants Stadium

When the Giants face the Tigers in Round 12 it will be the first time the side comes up against former Giants Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper who both departed the club over the off-season, finding themselves a new home at Punt Road.

The match in itself will be an interesting one as the Giants will be looking to make their mark under Kingsley coming up against an established side in the Tigers.

Round 16 vs Melbourne – Giants head north for the first time

12 years after the club was first incepted, the Giants will make history again in Round 16 with GWS set to play in Darwin for the first time ever when it takes on Melbourne at TIO Traeger Park. The match will also mark the first time Toby Bedford will match up against his old side.

Elly McNerney

Round 1 vs Essendon – Kicking off the season against old foes

Hawthorn’s opening-round clash with historic foes Essendon at the MCG promises to be an enthralling encounter. There’s certainly no love lost between the two clubs, having been entangled in countless brutal contests over the years.

Adding to the occasion is the fact that 2023 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Hawks’ 1983 grand final victory over the Bombers.

Will Brad Scott get his first win as Essendon coach, or can Sam Mitchell’s young brigade topple the archenemy?

Round 3 vs North Melbourne – Clarkson v Mitchell, master v apprentice

There’ll likely be plenty of headlines circulating in the lead-up to Hawthorn’s fixture against North Melbourne in Tasmania, with the clash marking the first time Sam Mitchell and his Hawks go head-to-head with former coach Alastair Clarkson.

Both teams appear evenly matched heading into 2023, each in the midst of a transition phase. Clarkson is of course not the only one to have crossed over from Waverley Park, with the four-time premiership coach joined by Daniel Howe and Liam Shiels at Arden Street.

Round 4 vs Geelong – Easter Monday rivalry

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. The traditional Easter Monday clash between fierce rivals Hawthorn and Geelong is always a huge occasion, regardless of ladder position.

The Hawks will no doubt be eager to upset the reigning premiers, whilst the Cats will be hoping to atone for their defeat last year. The prospect of yet another close contest between these two proud clubs means that this is a must-watch for footy lovers.

Round 20 vs St Kilda – Home game at Marvel

In what shapes as a curious fixture, Hawthorn will host St Kilda under the roof at Marvel Stadium. This will be the second of two contests between the clubs in 2023, with both taking place at Docklands.’

It means that Hawthorn will effectively have no home-ground advantage against Ross Lyon’s side. This looms as a challenging fixture for the Hawks, who lost to the Saints twice last season.

Round 24 vs Fremantle – Dockers at the ‘G

Hawthorn’s final-round fixture against Fremantle marks the first time since 2014 that the Hawks have hosted the Dockers at the MCG.

With the match often played in Launceston or Perth, Hawthorn will now get the chance to rectify its recent poor record against Fremantle on the vast expanses of the MCG. The clash will also likely see Jaeger O’Meara line up against his former club.

Jonathan Potenza

Round 2 vs Brisbane – Into the Lions’ den

The Demons have had the hand over the Lions over the last couple of years, especially the last two. But Brisbane was able to get it done when it counted the most, knocking Melbourne out of the finals despite being down by 22 points at halftime at the MCG – a ground that it had troubles on in the past.

Although their first meeting in 2023 isn’t at the ‘G but at the Gabba, the Demons get their first chance at revenge. The two sides meet again in round 18, and with both teams expected to finish high up the ladder, this clash could have finals complications.

Round 6 vs Richmond – ANZAC Eve

The ANZAC eve clash between Melbourne and Richmond is always one of the best spectacles of the season. The game means so much more than football as the pre-game ceremonies give those in attendance the opportunity to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers.

The Demons currently lead the Head to Head 4-3, and with both clubs making noteworthy changes and potentially considered as premiership contenders, the encounter looks to be a mouth-watering contest.

Round 11 vs Fremantle – Freo and Luke Jackson return to the ‘G

One of the biggest moves in the trade period was Luke Jackson moving from Melbourne to Fremantle. The highly talented ruckman won’t have to wait long to match up against his former premiership teammates on his old home ground – the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

After two epic encounters last year between these two sides, there is no reason fans can’t expect anything else.

Round 13 vs Collingwood – King’s Birthday

Similar to its ANZAC eve, Melbourne’s King’s Birthday clash against Collingwood has so much significance and means so much more than the football that will be played, it’s the annual Big Freeze at the ‘G.

The Magpies have had the Demons’ number in the last two matches, winning by seven and 16 points respectively.

There will be extra intrigue to the game as it will be the first time star ruckman Brodie Grundy faces his old side and former teammates after he left Collingwood during last year’s trade period.

Jordan Janssen

Round 1 vs West Coast – Clarkson era begins

North Melbourne will open the Alastair Clarkson era at home in Round 1 against the West Coast Eagles. It will be the first chance for Kangaroos supporters to see the changes and game style the group will play under the four-time premiership coach.

North Melbourne hasn’t won its round 1 clash since 2019, but fans will hope under ‘Clarko’ they can start the year with some optimism.

Round 3 vs Hawthorn – The master vs the protege

Typically the Kangaroos’ encounters with the Hawks aren’t eye-catching, however, that changes in 2023. Round 3 at UTAS Stadium will be the first time Alastair Clarkson matches up against his former club and young protege Sam Mitchell. With both clubs in similar list situations, the match will be interesting to watch.

The game will have a little extra spice with Clarkson, not the only one to switch the brown and gold for the blue and white stripes with Liam Shiels and Daniel Howe making their way down to Arden Street in the offseason via the pre-season supplemental selection period and rookie draft.

Round 4 vs Carlton – Good Friday

After two disastrous encounters against the Western Bulldogs where North Melbourne lost by 128 and 68 points, the Kangaroos will face the Blues in 2023.

In recent times, North Melbourne has had success against Carlton, up until this year where it lost by 55 points. Since 2014, the Kangaroos have only lost two games to the Blues.

Good Friday like recent times for the Kangaroos has been their lone prime-time/blockbuster slot, so fans will hope Alastair Clarkson can work his magic to hopefully cause an upset against a side looking for finals success, but ultimately they will want to see their team competitive on the day.

Round 9 vs Port Adelaide – Horne-Francis to face the noise

As soon as the fixture dropped, North Melbourne supporters would have searched, marked and circled this game, knowing its significance.

Round 9 will be the first time the Kangaroos face the Power and former number-one pick Jason Horne-Francis. Unfortunately, the game is in Tasmania and not under the bright lights of Marvel Stadium but fans can still expect fireworks when the ball is bounced.

Jordan Janssen

Round 1 vs Brisbane – Lions come to the Portress

Port Adelaide will open their 2023 campaign at home against the Brisbane Lions, who they haven’t hosted at the Adelaide Oval since 2019 and beaten since 2018.

Both sides recruited strongly in the off-season and are once again premiership contenders. The Power will be desperate to finally break their hoodoo against the Lions and avoid another winless start to the season.

Round 3 vs Adelaide – Showdown 53

Two weeks later in Round 3, Port Adelaide play their home showdown against Adelaide on a Saturday night.

This passionate rivalry has continued to be a can’t-miss for fans each year, while the match itself is always unpredictable regardless of both sides’ recent form.

Although the Power finished 2022 off strong with a 56-point win over their arch-rival, they wouldn’t want to revisit their Round 3 loss to the Crows that contributed to their 0-5 start.

Round 6 vs West Coast – ANZAC round at home

A fixture that Port Adelaide always prides itself in playing is a home game in Anzac Round, which will once again be the case in season 2023.

The Power will collide against the West Coast Eagles for the second straight year in this fixture, the Eagles will want to rectify their 84-point drubbing from 2022.

Junior Rioli will also meet his former side in this game, after crossing over to Port Adelaide during last year’s trade period.

Round 9 vs North Melbourne – Horne-Francis faces the Roos

One of the most anticipated matches of the 2023 season that arose from the trade period is Port Adelaide vs North Melbourne, due to Jason Horne-Francis’ move to the Power from the Kangaroos and the controversy that followed.

Although it is at Hobart instead of Marvel Stadium, it will still be spicy and interesting to see the reception last year’s number one draft pick receives from both his former fans and teammates.

Round 24 vs Richmond – Tigers to conclude the season

In what is a difficult fixture for Port Adelaide, they will finish their season the same way they start with a big game at home. Round 24 will see Port Adelaide host Richmond, as both sides could be playing for huge stakes that have a bearing on the finals.

The Power and Tigers in recent years have also had some exciting battles, dating back to the 2020 season when they played in a preliminary final and arguably the best home and away game of the year.

Theo Dimou

Round 1 vs Carlton – Opening night rivalry

A much-anticipated staple of the AFL calendar, Richmond will take on Carlton in yet another Round 1 Thursday night blockbuster, and it will be a cracker once again.

In previous years Richmond has dominated this fixture, however, Carlton came to play last year, defeating the Tigers by 25 points to claim its first Round 1 win since 2012. The Tigers got their revenge by defeating the Blues in Round 14, but this one is sure to be hotly contested.

With both teams expected to be strong outfits in 2023, it could definitely go either way once again.

Round 9 vs Geelong – Battle of the cats

Richmond and Geelong always put on a show, and Round 9 will be no exception. With the Tigers having dropped off slightly in recent years, they haven’t been able to defeat the Cats since their 2020 Grand Final win over the side.

But as the Tigers look to climb back up the ladder in 2023, and with the dominance that the Cats have displayed in the past year, it will be a great test to see where the Tigers stand after a couple of volatile seasons.

Round 10 vs Essendon – Dreamtime at the ‘G

Dreamtime at the ‘G is always a landmark fixture, and the 2023 edition will be no different. A celebration of Indigenous culture taking place during the Sir Doug Nicholls Round, the yearly blockbuster between the Tigers and Bombers draws in huge crowds at the MCG each year.

Despite the fact that Richmond has had the better side on paper for many years now, it will still be a momentous occasion as always, with an upset always on the cards.

It is a date that should be marked in every AFL fan’s calendar.

Round 16 vs Brisbane – Out for revenge against the Lions

After defeating them in an intense affair late in the season and entering finals with plenty of momentum after a string of massive victories, the Tigers would be gutted with the two-point loss they suffered in their elimination-final matchup against the Brisbane Lions.

The two sides have played in some huge games over the last couple of years, and with both expected to be competitive again in 2023, their Round 16 clash is sure to be another big one. Not to mention, the result could have a huge effect on how each team’s road to the finals will end up panning out.

Brandon Patane

Round 1 vs Fremantle – Ross Returns

This season is one of intrigue for many Saints fans with the return of club legends to the coaching ranks joining the much-covered appointment of Ross Lyon to the head coaching role. And there is no better way to begin his tenure than against the side he left the Saints for way back in 2011, the Fremantle Dockers.

The return to Marvel Stadium for the Boss will likely see a large contingent of Saints fans make their way in to gauge just how different they will look in 2023.

Round 2 vs Western Bulldogs – Looking to break the Bulldogs’ curse

The Saints have had a significantly difficult time breaking down the Western Bulldogs in the past two seasons, after being thoroughly outplayed for three-quarters of their match in 2022, and after losing by a whopping 111 points in 2021.

Something they didn’t have, however, was Ross Lyon, who broke the Dogs’ spirit time and time again in his former stint at Moorabbin, defeating them in back-to-back preliminary finals in 2009 and 2010.

Can the Dogs vanquish their demons, or will the Saints march through Footscray once again?

Round 3 vs Essendon – Celebrating 150 years

2023 will be a year of celebration for the Saints as they mark 150 years since its inception, with a game against the Bombers in Round 3 set to host the festivities.

The two sides have had plenty of classic encounters over the years and will be set for another, with the Saints playing a rare home game at the MCG for the occasion.

Round 13 vs Sydney – Pride match

The Saints’ lone fixture against the Swans this year looks set to be the annual Pride Game for 2023, as they travel to Sydney as they did in 2022.

The Saints had little success against the Swans last season, going 0/2 in their matchups, including a heavy defeat in the titular match. The Saints will hope to have a much-improved performance in 2023.

Jarryd Thomas

Round 3 vs Melbourne – Demons at the ‘G

Melbourne at the ‘G holds no fear for Sydney, having toppled the Dees twice there in 2022, including in last year’s qualifying final.

But the intrigue lies in the Demons being the Swans’ first top-eight opponent for the year, an opponent who will no doubt be wanting revenge on their home soil against what will likely be another finals rival in 2023.

Round 6 vs Geelong – Grand final rematch

The pain of last year’s grand final humiliation will return to the surface in the grand final rematch, as Sydney will be Geelong’s first opponent at the newly refurbished GMHBA stadium.

But will the Geelong faithful coronate flag number 10 with a win?

Sydney has a relatively good recent record at GMHBA, winning four of its last five games there, and will no doubt be hungry for revenge, and could very well ruin the celebrations.

Round 8 vs Collingwood – Magpies in Melbourne

Yet another 2022 finals rival out for revenge, Sydney’s one-point preliminary final win over Collingwood will still likely burn when the two sides face off this round. Magpie fans will rejoice the crack at the Swans on their home deck, with the two sides set to face off in Melbourne for the first time since 2013.

Round 13 vs St Kilda – Pride match

The annual pride game against St Kilda is always a highlight of the season, and this year, pride is prime-time on Thursday night.

While St Kilda was defeated twice by Sydney in 2022, the Saints are not to be taken lightly at any point, as their round 23 performance proved.

Fresh off the bye, the Swans will want to attack the second half of the year with their fourth win in six games against the Saints.

Round 20 vs Essendon – Bombers at Marvel

Like magnets, Sydney and Essendon refuse to be separated for very long.

The Bombers’ Round 16 win over the Swans was the respective side’s sixth out of seven games decided by 10 points or less, and there’s rarely an encounter between them without some sort of controversy, making them must-watch every year.

Depending on how the respective years play out, there may be more than four points on the line in this one.

Thomas Grattan 

Round 2 vs GWS – Battle of the rebuilding sides

On the back of an extremely disappointing 2022 season, the West Coast Eagles will be looking to respond and there is no better way to do so than in the first home game of the season against the GWS Giants.

With both sides in a rebuilding phase, it is set to be a competitive fixture in the early stages of the season.

Round 8 vs Richmond – Eagles come to the MCG

Round 8 is the only time the Eagles head to the home of football, and visits to the MCG are extremely valuable to rebuilding sides.

Although West Coast isn’t expected to be playing finals football in 2023, its fans will be looking forward to seeing their side play at the MCG.

Round 11 vs Essendon – Bombers in Perth

West Coast only won two games in one of the most difficult seasons in the club’s history in 2022, however, one of those came against Essendon.

Although both sides have undertaken significant change since the Round 15 fixture last season, West Coast will take great confidence into the fixture, and fans will come into the match with great optimism.

Round 22 vs Fremantle – Western Derby

The Western Derby is one of the highlights on the AFL calendar, with both of the Western Australian clubs looking to claim bragging rights across the two fixtures. The Eagles will host the latter of the two fixtures, and it is expected to draw a massive crowd in their penultimate home game of the year.

Lachlan Dand

Round 1 vs Melbourne – Head to head against the Demons

After a strong 2021 side from both teams which ended in a Melbourne Premiership, both Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs have built up a rivalry over the last couple of years.

With the 2021 Grand Final result aside, most times the two sides have met over the last couple of years have been strong contests, with the last time the two sides met it was the Bulldogs who were victorious by ten points.

This rivalry will have another chapter with both Josh Schache and Lachie Hunter crossing over from Whitten Oval to the Demons for 2023.

Round 3 vs Brisbane – Old teammate turned new foe

It was only a couple of months ago when reigning Charles Sutton Medal Winner Josh Dunkley made the move up north to the Lions, with no love lost between the Dogs and the Lions after lengthy trade discussions for the star midfielder.

The Bulldogs will not have to wait long to meet the newest Lion as they take on the Lions at Marvel stadium in a Thursday night blockbuster to kick off Round 3 action.

Round 5 vs Fremantle – Finals revenge

The Bulldogs 2022 campaign ended in a disappointing state with a 13-point loss to the Fremantle Dockers. The Dockers came from a 41-point deficit to have one of the comebacks of the year to keep their season alive whilst sending the Bulldogs packing.

Flash forward to 2023 the sides will meet for the first time in Round 5 over in the West, with one of the Bulldogs’ newest recruits Rory Lobb set to take on his old side.

Round 8 vs GWS – Fiery rivalry

It’s one of the newer rivalries in our game but it’s certainly a fiery one, which has included just about everything, from Preliminary Final blockbusters to an infamous boot to the face.

The Bulldogs defeated the Giants twice in 2022 but with the Giants heading into a new era in 2023, they’ll be looking to capitalise against their rivals next season.

Round 11 vs Gold Coast – Heading north

The Bulldogs will be heading to the Northern Territory in Round 11 with the side set to take on the Gold Coast Suns at TIO stadium.

The game marks the first time the Bulldogs will head to Darwin since 2013. The last time these two sides met it was a close tussle out at Mars Stadium with the Bulldogs getting up by 19 points.

Elly McNerney

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