North Melbourne will be pitted against Greater Western Sydney in the return round, according to football sources. They will meet at Giants Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Over the same weekend, Adelaide and Port Adelaide will face off for a “showdown” at Adelaide Oval, with the AFL making arrangements for the umpires at that game to go into quarantine for 14 days straight after the game.
The broadcasters for that game – whether it is Seven or Foxtel/Fox Footy – would be able to get the cameras and on-site staff to the Adelaide Oval, according to AFL sources.
Adelaide and Port Adelaide are expected to return to their hubs on the Gold Coast after playing one another in the showdown.
It is clear that the six teams stationed in Queensland for the early games – the Perth and Adelaide clubs, plus Gold Coast and the Lions – will play predominantly against one another in the first four or five rounds, while there will be many games between the Victorian clubs and the two teams based in Sydney over the first month of the resumed season.
The AFL has decided to open the return to footy with two blockbusters, in Collingwood v Richmond and Geelong v Hawthorn, in a clear attempt to attract the best possible ratings for Seven and Foxtel, as the league seeks to get the best outcome in negotiating a reduced pay deal.
The AFL will unveil the fixture for the first four rounds on Monday. The league does not want to complete the entire draw, due to a need to remain flexible as it seeks to deal with shifting scenarios from state and federal governments.
But the AFL has one bedrock principle of the fixture, which is that each team will play one another once in the 17-round home and away season, with the finals set for October, though they are prepared for delays due to another shutdown.
Geelong captain Joel Selwood, meantime, has thrown his weight behind the club’s push to play their full complement of home matches this season at their Kardinia Park base.
The Cats have long played a number of home games in Melbourne each season, with their highest-drawing fixtures against powerhouse Victorian rivals often taking place at the MCG.
But with the 2020 campaign likely to be played out behind closed doors, key Geelong figures such as president Frank Costa and chief executive Brian Cook have called for the Cats to be granted genuine home matches at the GMHBA Stadium – regardless of the opponent.
It would mean Melbourne-based heavyweights Collingwood and Essendon play matches down the highway for the first time this century.
‘‘Every other club should be allowed to hopefully have home games where they want to, too, in the scenario where it doesn’t look like we’re going to have crowds for a large part of the year,’’ Selwood told ABC radio.
‘‘It’s not going to affect anyone apart from broadcasters who have to get ready for the games.’’
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.