Published On: Mon, Oct 27th, 2014

More changes to AFL pre-season format as overhaul continues | Sport |

More changes to AFL pre-season format as overhaul continues | Sport |
Defending premiers Hawthorn will kick off the NAB Challenge against Collingwood on February 26. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The AFL continues to overhaul its pre-season format, ditching the 18 games in 18 days experiment for a four-week schedule.

Next year’s NAB Challenge will start on February 26 when premiers Hawthorn host Collingwood at Tasmania’s Aurora Stadium and will run until March 22, when it will finish at Patersons Stadium with local rivals West Coast and Fremantle doing battle.

The league will then have a week off until the regular season starts in early April.

Each club will play three pre-season games, spread over four weekends.

Regional and other non-traditional AFL venues will again feature heavily in the pre-season.

For the second year, there will be no pre-season competition winner.

Another feature is that no team will have to travel interstate for the last pre-season round of games.

Each team will have two games spread over the opening three weekends, with all 18 playing on the final weekend.

All four weekends will feature games from Thursday through to Sunday.

The WA regional town of Mandurah, Moreton Bay and Townsville in Queensland, SA’s Port Lincoln, NSW’s Coffs Harbour and the Victorian towns of Morwell and Shepparton are among the country venues.

Whitten Oval in Melbourne will host an AFL-standard match for the first time since late in the 1997 season.

Norwood Oval in Adelaide and Sydney’s Drummoyne Oval are two other new suburban pre-season venues.

Last year, each team played two games over an 18-day period and had the option for a third match before the start of the regular season.

This time, the pre-season and regular season are starting a week late because of the cricket World Cup.

Of the 27 matches, 21 will be televised.

The AFL also announced that for the first time in a decade, paid-up club members can attend their team’s games for free.

The league will announce next year’s regular season draw on Thursday.