The AFL has released their 2017 fixture after their round 1 sneak preview, with what can only be described as a massive boon for the club. Success begets success and the Swans have been granted their marquee wish.
Their season kicks off against Port Adelaide in the Saturday twilight slot at the SCG on March 25th, following on with 8 games in Victoria, 8 Friday night games, traveling to Perth and Adelaide once each, the inaugural Marn Grook clash at the SCG against Western Bulldogs on a Thursday night, and the first Pride Match for premiership points.
Of the 11 clubs' home matches, 6 will be played against Victorian teams Collingwood, Hawthorn, Western Bulldogs, Essendon, St Kilda and Carlton, while the remaining 5 will see them play cross-town rivals and fellow interstate teams.
The eight games in Victoria is especially beneficial for the South Melbourne supporter base, the most the club has played since 1996. Four of the matches will be played at the MCG, three at Etihad and one at the Cattery. Four Melbourne based games will be played in each half of the season, with all of the Etihad games played in the first half, as well as 1 MCG game.
The Swans were quite naturally delighted with the fixture, and the progress the Swans have made towards prime time games. The membership numbers have increased year-on-year since 2012, breaking another record and exceeding 50 thousand for the first time this year.
“With so many big matches at home and away, including eight Victorian matches, the 2017 fixture is a real win for Swans members, supporters and corporate partners,” Ireland said.
“The Club is proud to again host a celebration of Indigenous culture when we play Hawthorn for Marn Grook at the SCG as part of Sir Doug Nicholls Round.
“The Pride Match at home will be a special occasion for our fans and continues to build on the foundations set this year with the inaugural clash with the Saints.
“We were so fortunate to have a record 56,523 members on board this year, and with all home games now at the SCG and so many matches at our spiritual home in Victoria, the best way to make sure you don’t miss any of the action will be by joining the team as a member.”
The Swans' improvement in performance contrasts the Tigers' fall from grace. Having been a mainstay of Friday night football for some time, the Tigers don't have a single Friday night game. Even though they had 6 Friday night games, they were disappointingly poor in most of them. Still, they regularly drew crowds over 45k in those games. Similarly, the Pies don't have a single prime-time game after round 3, having fallen from the top 8 and their crowd numbers falling away,
A typically tough run home faces the Swans with games against GWS (a), St Kilda (h), Geelong (a), Fremantle (h), Adelaide (a) and Carlton (h), all but the Fremantle clash at prime time Friday and Saturday nights. The Swans will have plenty of recuperation throughout the season with seven 6 day breaks.
The Swans will be challenged, with two games against fellow finalists Greater Western Sydney and Western Bulldogs, sure to be massive clashes at the top of the table. They will travel to Perth to face the Eagles in round 4, and Etihad for North Melbourne in round 8. Incredibly, the fixtures between rounds 12 and 19 swaps between SCG and MCG, except for the 2nd GWS game at Spotless.
The Swans play 4 finalists in their first 10 games, with three of those games away from home and back-to-back Etihad games in rounds 8 and 9. The second half of the season sees the Swans play 5 of the finalists, including return games against GWS and Western Bulldogs, with 4 of them away from home. A challenge no doubt to play so many of the finalist clashes away from home (7 of 9), but if the Swans are good enough, they will come out on top. Fortunately though, the Swans play the bottom 4 teams at home, as well as having 2 games against both Carlton and St Kilda.
Overall, the Swans' fixture will be difficult, but won't be the most challenging one they've faced. Rounds 4 and 5 against good opposition will be danger games, as well as playing premiers the Western Bulldogs in round 2. Games against North in round 8 and Hawthorn in round 10 will keep the Swans on their toes to close out a tough first half. Heading into the bye with 7-3 would be fantastic and anything better a bonus.
The 2nd half kicks off with another after-the-bye game against the Bulldogs at the SCG, then a comparatively easy set of fixtures before they face the giants in round 17. After then, there's a finalist mixed with a non-finalist for the remainder of the season, never threatening the Swans to drop 2 in a row.
Playing so many finalists away from home will no doubt be the biggest challenge that the Swans face. The clubs' wish for marquee games was granted by the AFL, and some of them are the biggest challenges that they'll face. Finishing the season with anything less than 6 losses would be fantastic. Another top 4 finish beckons with top 2 a chance.
While the Swans' fixture can be considered challenging, spare a thought for the Dogs. They play all of their reverse games against fellow finalists, as well as eight 6-day breaks. 7 Friday night games will improve their exposure, but their 2016 dream run of their first 7 games at Etihad was not realised, playing just 5 games there before the bye.
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