Bombers’ red-hot form rewarded in AFL fixture

Anna Harrington |

Essendon’s impressive start to the season has been reflected in the latest AFL fixtures.
Essendon’s impressive start to the season has been reflected in the latest AFL fixtures.

Essendon have been thrust into the AFL Friday-night spotlight as reward for their red-hot form.

But there will be no Thursday night matches in the next block of home-and-away fixtures.

The AFL released the fixture for rounds 16-23 on Tuesday while confirming the final round of the season, round 24, will remain a floating fixture.

Essendon will have three Friday night games, against Collingwood, Adelaide and Sydney, in their next chunk of games.

Only Collingwood have as many Friday night blockbusters, with the Magpies facing Geelong and Sydney, along with the Bombers in round 17, on the big stage.

Melbourne and the Swans are the only other clubs with multiple Friday night games, with two apiece.

Battling Richmond were among six teams without a Friday night game, along with top-four hopefuls GWS and finals aspirants Fremantle.

The Bombers sit outright third amid their 6-1-2 start to the year, which includes going unbeaten in their past five games.

The league will hope the Bombers avoid the drop-offs that have marked their recent seasons as they attempt to claim their first finals win since 2004.

The AFL has also made a point of scheduling marquee games in the Saturday twilight timeslot, including a grand final rematch between Collingwood and Brisbane in round 23.

The removal of Thursday night games, after 14 in the first part of the season, from the back end of the fixture will mean less five-day breaks for clubs.

Carlton and the Western Bulldogs each have one five-day break.

Round 21 will deliver a blockbuster Saturday night clash between old rivals Carlton and Collingwood.

The fixture release is now staggered out to ensure marquee games are placed in the best time-slots.

“It has been a thrilling start to the 2024 season, great footy, big games, big events, setting us up for one of the great seasons on record,” AFL broadcast and fixtures boss Josh Bowler said.

“Fans have turned up in record numbers and we are set up for an electrifying second half of the season.

“We have big competitive match-ups in the marquee slots, including a string of blockbuster Friday night games heading into finals.

“Although there are no further Thursday night matches this season, as we transition to new broadcast arrangements in 2025, we will look to continue to build on the growth and success we saw this season, having already delivered 14 in a row.”

Across the opening nine rounds, 3,171,539 fans have attended games.