The 2019 AFL Fixture was released to the world on Thursday, sending the fans of 18 clubs into a flurry to analyse what it meant for their team. Each club has publicly talked up the positives of the fixture handed them but, as is the case every year, the task of balancing the commercial and competitive needs of all the games stakeholders proved beyond the AFL.
We take a look at what the 2019 fixture holds in store for the Saints, a team that has been on the receiving end of some of the more difficult draws in recent years. Have the fixture gods looked upon them favourably this year or is it more of the same for the men from Moorabbin.
Without question the fact that the Saints meet three teams from last years bottom six twice is a fantastic result for a team that failed to deliver on high expectations in 2018. On face value it appears a welcome change from their five double ups in 2018 against top nine opponents.
A bag full of cash and one less trip to the Adelaide Oval, a ground they are yet to win at, was a good result as is the fact they play just one Sunday Twilight fixture despite being banished to Sundays after a poor season. No back to back six day breaks should mean no excuses when it comes to conditioning.
They’ll need Port Adelaide’s China money because the rest of the fixture would not have made for good reading for the bean counters at Moorabbin. Despite the club’s stated objective of making ‘Sunday with the Saints’ a success, hosting Gold Coast, Carlton, Western Bulldogs and Fremantle on Sunday’s is not a recipe for big crowds. The moving of Maddie’s Match from a Friday or Saturday night to a Sunday afternoon will also potentially blunt one of the clubs biggest drawing events.
Having been roped into the position of ‘Home Team’ for the AFL and Port Adelaide’s push into China it is a little disappointing that we are also required to assist North Melbourne in their increased cash grab into Tasmania. While that represents good news for our large Tasmanian supporter base, fans in Queensland’s South East for the second time in three years will not have the opportunity to see the team in the flesh.
The club will be earning their frequent flyer points in 2019. Despite Champion Data’s assertion that the Saints were dealt the easiest draw on Thursday, seven away trips – including the self inflicted China trip and a drive down to the Cattery suggests anything but.
Last home game of the season in Round 21 and an interstate trip for the last game is less than ideal from a fans perspective too.
Rounds two through nine will no doubt be keep Alan Richardson awake at night from now until it is completed. During this period they will face Essendon, travel to both Perth and Canberra, take on five of the last six teams standing in 2018 – including both Grand Finalists in consecutive weeks and confront Adelaide who they haven’t beaten since 2011. Unless they improve markedly on their 2018 form, this is a stretch that could see the Saints season end before it even begins.
The Saints play Carlton in Melbourne on May 26th then do not play in their home state again until June 22nd. The AFL in their wisdom deciding the schedule the team in China and Townsville either side of the bye in a move that denies home fans a chance to see the team for nearly a month and goes a long way to eradicating the benefit of the mid-season bye.
If the Saints can survive (or heaven forbid even thrive) through the horror show that is Rounds Two – Nine, the fixture presents the opportunity for the Saints to have a much improved 2019 season. Even in this best case scenario, it appears difficult for the club to prosper financially from it in a worst case scenario it looms as a potential disaster.