The AFL has released its official 2023 pre-season round schedule.
Each team will play an official practice match, with the majority to also play an unofficial match simulation except for the Giants and Bulldogs who have decided to play an intraclub game.
The pre-season will kick off with a match between 2022 premiers Geelong against Hawthorn on Feb 23, with runners-up Sydney to play Brisbane the following day. The Cats will also play Brisbane in one of the hotly anticipated matches over the two weeks on March 2, the other being between 2020 and 2021 premiers, Melbourne and Richmond, on March 4.
The regular season begins on March 16 with a huge game between Richmond and Collingwood.
UNOFFICIAL MATCH SIMULATIONS (all times AEDT)
Thursday February 23
Geelong v Hawthorn, GMHBA Stadium, 4pm (4 x 20min plus time on)
Gold Coast v Essendon, Austworld Oval (Carrara), 5pm (6 x 25min, no time on)
Friday February 24
North Melbourne v Richmond, Arden St, 10am (4 x 25min, 2 x2 0 min, no time on)
Carlton v Collingwood, Ikon Park, 11am (4 x25 min, no time on)
Sydney v Brisbane, Tramway Oval (Moore Park), 12pm (4 x 25min, no time on)
St Kilda v Melbourne, RSEA Park, 4pm (6 x 25 min, no time on)
Fremantle v Adelaide, Victor George Kailis Oval (Cockburn), 6.30pm (6 x 25 min, no time on)
West Coast v Port Adelaide, Mineral Resources Park (Perth) 7.40pm (4 x 28 min, 2 x 20 min, no time on)
OFFICIAL PRACTICE MATCHES (all times AEDT)
Thursday March 2
Hawthorn v Collingwood, UTAS Stadium, 5.10pm
Fremantle v Port Adelaide, Fremantle Oval, 7.10pm
Brisbane v Geelong, Brighton Homes Arena, 8.10pm
Friday March 3
St Kilda v Essendon, RSEA Park, 4.10pm
Sydney v Carlton, Blacktown International Sports Park, 7.10pm
West Coast v Adelaide, Mineral Resources Park (Perth) 7.40pm
Saturday March 4
GWS Giants v Gold Coast, Blacktown International Sports Park, 12.10pm
Western Bulldogs v North Melbourne, Ikon Park, 1.10pm
Melbourne v Richmond, Casey Fields, 4.10pm
Meanwhile, Hawthorn have extended their contract to play AFL games in Tasmania, as the island state’s quest for its own side remains up in the air.
The club on Tuesday announced they would continue to play four games a season at University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston until the end of 2025.
The Hawks will play at the venue in rounds three, six, 10 and 22 this season – the first of those matches against North Melbourne on April 1. The $13.5 million dollar agreement with the Tasmanian government also includes one pre-season game a year.
“Having this commitment provides certainty for the club while the state continues … its pursuit of its own AFL team, which we have long said we are in support of,” said Hawthorn CEO Justin Reeves.
The Tasmanian government has unveiled details of the first stage of upgrades to UTAS Stadium, which includes an additional 1000 seats and improved facilities for players and fans. The $65 million improvements, expected to be completed by early 2025, include the refurbishment of home and away change rooms and new interchange benches.
The state government is chasing $65 million from the federal government the second stage of upgrades to the stadium.
Tasmania’s push for inclusion in the national competition seemingly rests on securing federal government funding for a new $715 million roofed stadium at Macquarie Point in Hobart.
The Liberal state government, which has pledged $375 million to the project, is asking for $240 million from the federal Labor government.
The AFL has committed $15 million, with the remaining $85 million to be gathered through borrowings against land sale or lease for commercial uses. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who is on the record as supporting the push for a Tasmanian side, has previously said the project will be examined as part of the federal budget process.
“The Macquarie Point plan, though, is about urban redevelopment,” he told reporters on Friday.
“It is not just about a stadium, and that is the basis of the consideration that we will be giving. We take the expenditure of taxpayer funds seriously.”
The Hobart stadium proposal has proven divisive in Tasmania, with state Labor and the Greens among those opposed. AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan had no update on Tuesday, saying steps were being taken “every day” as the league weighs up whether to have a Tasmanian team.
“Big infrastructure projects take time. You have to prosecute them, tell the story well,” he said.
“I believe the impact of a team in Tasmania will be huge for the Tasmanian economy and will have implications for Tasmania much beyond football and sport – entertainment, construction jobs, pride.
“The federal government is now talking about a broader project as well … well beyond the match day in that precinct.
“You have to keep iterating, prosecuting and I have done a few of these. It takes time.