The slow release of information is over and we now have access to the full AFL Fixture for 2018. If nothing else, Saints fans can rejoice in the fact that they play just once in the graveyard of the AFL fixture – Sunday Twilight. With four games scheduled on a Friday, including the club’s first foray into Good Friday Football, eight on a Saturday night, and with 11 games scheduled for free to air viewing, it is perhaps one of the better fixtures from a commercial standpoint that the club has had for some time.
On the negative however, with two matches against Richmond, GWS, Melbourne, Hawthorn and North Melbourne, based on this years ladder the Saints have been dealt the most difficult fixture of 2018. On the less than scientific basis of granting each team a score based on their 2017 ladder position (ie Richmond 18, Brisbane 1) and adding them together, St Kilda’s fixture comes out with a score of 217. This is 3 points more than Port Adelaide in second position. To put that discrepancy in perspective, you have to go down to the ninth hardest fixture to find the team with a 3 point easier draw than Port.
Queensland fans will get to see the team in action again in 2018, when the Saints face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in Round 13. There are also trips to Launceston to face the Hawks, Sydney to face the Giants, a chance to break our duck at the Adelaide Oval against Port Adelaide, and two trips to the new Perth Stadium. We also have an away game against the Cats in Geelong. Surprisingly, Essendon do not and Fitzroy have still played more recently at the Cattery than the Bombers.
The Saints only have two opportunities to grace the home of football during the Home and Away season, with appointments against Richmond and Melbourne the only dates the team has at the MCG. One positive in the fixture for the club is the potential to come home with a wet sail, with six of the last seven games to be played at Etihad.
The AFL has given the Saints the opportunity to continue with a number of their fixture initiatives. The club will host the Tigers again in the 3rd Maddie’s Match in Round 18 and will welcome the Swans for another Pride Game in Round 12. The Saints will also participate in the AFL’s second ever Good Friday game against North Melbourne.
“Overall we believe we have a strong fixture that caters for ours fans and a platform to push towards a return to finals football.” Matt Finnis – St Kilda CEO
While Finnis has put a brave face on the fixture announcement, the club has been given another dud hand by the AFL. While it is true that you have to beat the best to be the best, it would be nice to not have to play them so often. In the fourth year of the fixture being developed in line with the ‘equalisation process’ the Saints have again been stiffed. The Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and Essendon who finished immediately above the Saints in 2017 have been handed draws with 13, 4 and 9 point advantages.
All that said, with big home games against Carlton, Collingwood and Richmond and just the one Sunday twilight fixture, there is no more excuses for the low crowd turnouts. The Saints are no longer playing ‘off Broadway’ and it’s time the crowds reflected this. What better way to see the Saints return to the Finals action after a long break than in front of heaving crowds at Etihad Stadium.