The New Zealand experiment is in jeopardy, Carlton are banished from the Friday night spotlight and the AFL will trial Kevin Sheedy’s new big idea.
These are the latest developments as the league drip-feeds features of the 2016 fixture ahead of Thursday’s announcement.
The AFL also released the pre-season schedule on Tuesday, with new AFL coaches Brendon Bolton and Don Pyke to go up against their old clubs in the first round of the pre-season cup.
Bolton’s Carlton will open the 27-game schedule on February 18 in Launceston against three-time premiers Hawthorn.
Bolton made his name as an assistant coach at the Hawks before landing his first senior job with the Blues.
Similarly, Pyke will be in charge of Adelaide for the first time in a home game at suburban Unley Oval on February 21 against losing grand finalists West Coast.
Pyke, a two-time West Coast premiership player, left his assistant role at the Eagles to take over the Crows.
Another notable feature of the pre-season cup will be John Worsfold’s first game as Essendon coach, on February 28 against Carlton at Visy Park.
The last regular-season game between the two fierce rivals at Visy Park was round 10, 1992.
It has also emerged that the Blues will go from six Friday night games this season – which became contentious when they played so badly – to none next year.
The closest they will come to the marquee time slot is when they open the season with the traditional Thursday night blockbuster against Richmond at the MCG.
Also, the AFL website reports that St Kilda’s Anzac Day match in NZ will not go ahead next year after negotiations with Christchurch’s city council did not work out.
The Saints have played Anzac Day matches in Wellington for the past three years, but the crowd has dropped each time.
They hope to eventually play matches in Auckland.
“While we will not play a match in NZ next season, we are in positive discussions about growing the game of AFL in NZ and capitalising upon the growing support for AFL in Auckland in particular,” Saints chief executive Matt Finnis said.
And the round-four match between Essendon and Geelong at the MCG will be the AFL’s inaugural country game.
The match will honour Australia’s farmers, with the Yarra Park around the ground to host a country festival.
Sheedy was a key figure in the AFL’s latest themed game.
He also had a major role in the creation of the Essendon v Collingwood Anzac Day blockbuster – now the AFL’s biggest match outside the finals – and the Dreamtime At The ‘G indigenous match between the Bombers and Richmond.
The pre-season cup will run until March 13, with each team playing three matches over four weekends.
The Blues and Tigers will open the regular season on Easter Thursday, March 24.