Just hours after the AFL released its 2018 fixture, Essendon and Richmond great Kevin Sheedy slammed it as “dumb” and lacking “common sense”.
Sheedy was particularly aggrieved at the omission of Essendon’s Round one clash against arch-rivals Hawthorn – a fixture that drew a crowd of 78,294 fans last season.
It was the biggest crowd between the two sides in a home-and-away match and seen as an ideal way to start the season.
But the AFL decided against a repeat in 2018, instead fixturing Essendon to host Adelaide on Friday, March 23.
“How do you walk away from 80,000?” Sheedy told The New Daily at the launch of his new book, Kevin Sheedy: The illustrated autobiography.
“Common sense, sometimes, is one of the most difficult subjects [for the AFL].”
“We happened to get 80,000 to Hawthorn-Essendon first game this year and, of course, what do we do? We’re not playing it,” he said.
“How dumb is that? 80,000 … no love between Hawthorn and Essendon and they give us Adelaide.”
Essendon – bolstered by the acquisitions of Jake Stringer, Devon Smith and Adam Saad in the trade period – begins its quest for a record 17th premiership against the Crows at Etihad Stadium, while Hawthorn tackles Collingwood at the MCG the following day.
The two sides don’t meet until Round seven on Saturday, May 5.
The Kangaroos, meanwhile, have greater reason to feel hard done by.
Considered the pioneer of Friday night football, North Melbourne won’t be seen in the primetime slot in 2018.
“It’s disappointing as a fan and supporter, and past player now,” retired Kangaroo defender Michael Firrito told The New Daily.
“They’re the games that everyone wants to play in and a lot of fans watch.”
Having finished 15th in 2017 with six wins and 16 losses, North Melbourne is one of four teams (along with Brisbane, Fremantle and Gold Coast) to be snubbed from Friday night football.
In contrast, Carlton, which finished one position below the Kangaroos, features in the week’s marquee timeslot four times.
“They’ve [North Melbourne] got some great young kids, some great young talent. I’m sure they’ll bounce back and get their Friday night fixtures back,” said Firrito, a veteran of 275 games for the Kangaroos.
“Although it was disappointing, the win/loss ratio, they still played some pretty exciting football this year.”
North Melbourne plays on Good Friday (during the day) for a second consecutive year, although in 2018, the Roos will face St Kilda, not the Western Bulldogs.
As usual, rivals Richmond and Carlton open the season, which in 2018, begins on Thursday, March 22.
They have just two double-up games against top-six teams from 2017 in Adelaide and Geelong.
And in what is a huge year for Nathan Buckley and Collingwood, the Magpies will play only two teams from this year’s top 12 twice – Richmond and Essendon.
The start time for the 2018 AFL Grand Final remains unclear, with the league set to address the issue in November, CEO Gillon McLachlan said on Tuesday.
McLachlan said last year a shift to a twilight start time was “inevitable” but the 2017 Grand Final started at 2.30pm.
Kevin Sheedy: The illustrated autobiography, published by Affirm Press, is on sale now.