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AFL 2016 Must Watch Games

The 2016 AFL season is building to be a very intriguing season with plenty of the normal grudge matches as well as high profiled stars playing against their former sides.

The Ticket Merchant (with help from Fox Footy) looks the ‘Must Watch Games’ during the 2016 AFL season.


1. Danger in Adelaide

Round 8: Adelaide v Geelong at Adelaide Oval (7.50pm, Friday May 13)

The 2015 season was dominated by the wrong kind of booing, but expect to hear the “right kind” when Patrick Dangerfield returns to Adelaide for the first time as a Cat. Expect the 2015 Adelaide Best and Fairest winner to put on a spellbinding display for the Adelaide crowd in a bittersweet reminder of the talent the Crows lost.


2. Easter Monday clash

Round 1: Geelong v Hawthorn at MCG (3.20pm, Monday March 28)

In what has become a recent tradition, the Hawks will host the Cats at the MCG on Easter Monday. While the Hawks outclassed the Cats by 62 points this year, the matches have generally been much closer. Expect that trend to return with Patrick Dangerfield in the blue and white hoops for the first time, as well as Lachie Henderson and a fit Daniel Menzel back for the Cats.


3. Buddy’s return

Round 1: Sydney v Collingwood at ANZ Stadium (7.25pm, Saturday March 26)

The Swans remain optimistic Lance Franklin will overcome his ongoing battle with mental illness to return for their first round clash against Collingwood at ANZ Stadium. And need him they will. The Swans only narrowly defeated the Pies by 11 points in Round 20 at the SCG last year when Buddy was out injured. While Swans fans will be hoping the three-time Coleman Medallist can find the form that made him so dangerous in 2014, Buddy’s return to football will be a milestone of itself.

Lance Franklin of the Swans celebrates a goal during the round seven AFL match between th
Lance Franklin of the Swans celebrates a goal during the round seven AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Geelong Cats at ANZ Stadium on May 16, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)Source: Supplied


4. The MCG Anzac Day clash

Round 5: Collingwood v Essendon at MCG (3.20pm, Monday April 25)

Even when Collingwood and Essendon aren’t playing good football, they invariably rise to the occasion and serve up three hours of class on Anzac Day. Combined with the spine-tingling silence that accompanies the Last Post, there’s no greater day in the home and away calendar. New coach John Worsfold will be looking to win his first Anzac Day match at the helm of Essendon, while Nathan Buckley will be urging his troops to emulate their winning performance this year. With Anzac Day landing on a Monday and the New Zealand experiment scrapped, the Pies-Bombers clash will be the only game on the day.


5. Carlisle v Dons

Round 9: St Kilda v Essendon at Etihad Stadium (4.40pm, Sunday May 22)

Jake Carlisle’s desire to be traded from Essendon turned into biggest talking point of the exchange period. And it took a horrible turn after a leaked Snapchat video of him allegedly snorting a white substance emerged the day after he penned a lucrative four-year deal with St Kilda. It must be said Bombers fans are some of the most loyal in the AFL, evident by their willingness to stick with their team despite the ongoing supplements saga. But there’s no doubt they will let Carlisle know of their disappointment come Round 9. And perhaps his stupidity in sharing the video, too.


6. Bolton v Hawks

Round 19: Hawthorn v Carlton at Aurora Stadium (2.10pm, Saturday July 30)

At first glance, this match doesn’t seem too tantalising, especially seeing as the last time they met, the Hawks decimated the Blues by 138 points. But this time things are different. Enter Brendon Bolton and suddenly this match goes from cakewalk to one of Master v Apprentice. But just how much can one man really change one club? So far, the Alastair Clarkson alumni of Luke Beveridge, Damien Hardwick, Leon Cameron and Adam Simpson seem to be doing OK.


7. Worsfold in Perth

Round 15: West Coast Eagles v Essendon at Subiaco Oval (8.10pm, Thursday June 30)

As one of only two premiership coaches at West Coast, John Worsfold is Eagles royalty. Now at the helm of Essendon, it will be interesting to see the reception he gets from the West Coast faithful when the two teams meet in 2016. Will they boo him as all parochial supporters do? Or will they still think of him affectionately as their longest serving coach?


8. Cam McCarthy v Freo

Round 7: Fremantle v GWS Giants at Subiaco Oval (8.40pm, Saturday May 7)

In arguably the most absurd moment of the 2015 season, Patrick Dangerfield was ironically cheered by Cats fans when he marked the ball in the last quarter of Geelong’s win over the Crows in Round 23 at Simonds Stadium. As far as they were concerned, the prodigal’s son had returned home. Over the trade period, another player in GWS’ Cam McCarthy made his own intentions to return home to WA clear — and Fremantle jumped on board as the club willing to make that move happen. Unfortunately for Freo and McCarthy, the young forward remains a contracted and required player at the Giants. Still, we may hear more ironic cheers next year when the two teams meet.


9. Queen’s Birthday (Howe v Dees)

Round 12: Melbourne v Collingwood at MCG (3.20pm, Monday June 13)

The once high-flying Demon will be hoping to make a big impact at his new club Collingwood, particularly when the two teams meet in their traditional Queen’s Birthday clash. But first, Howe must crack into the Pies’ starting 22, something coach Nathan Buckley flagged to the 25-year-old when he was traded to the club.


10. Dogs v Michael Talia

Round 15: Sydney Swans v Western Bulldogs at SCG (4.35pm, Saturday July 2)

One-half of the brother duo accused of football’s version of insider trading will not be looking forward to his first game in the red and white against his old club. The Western Bulldogs were disgusted at the allegations levelled at Michael Talia and his older brother, Adelaide’s Daniel, in the wake of the Dog’s elimination final loss to the Crows in September. It’s fair to say Talia will be in the doghouse when he faces his old side.


11. Dogs’ first Friday night game

Round 6: North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium (7.50pm, Friday April 29)

Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon lobbied the AFL for up to six Friday night matches in 2016 — and it appears some of his hard work has paid off. The Dogs have been rewarded with three Friday night games, the first of which will be played in Round 6. As a team trying desperately to build its supporter base, the Friday night slot is crucial for the Dogs, who have been shut-out of the prime time position for the past three years. With one of the most electrifying brands of football, we can’t wait to see the Dogs on Friday nights.


12. Giants v Giants

Round 14: GWS Giants v Carlton at Spotless Stadium (4.35pm, Saturday June 25)

In one of the stranger and more complex trades of 2015, Carlton exchanged four picks for four GWS players: Jed Lamb, Andrew Phillips, Lachie Plowman and Liam Sumner. As the former list manager at the Giants, Stephen Silvagni was certainly the brains of the operation that also saw Troy Menzel traded to Adelaide. If all four players are selected to play — as well as Kristian Jaksch and Mark Whiley — for Carlton when they take on GWS in Round 14, over a quarter of the team will be made up of ex-Giants. An odd proposition.


13. (Unsociable) Hawks v North

Round 13: North Melbourne v Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium (7.50pm, Friday June 17)

Jordan Lewis may be 15cm shorter than All-Australian ruckman Todd Goldstein, but he still managed to find his head last year. Lewis and his captain Luke Hodge were both suspended after the Hawks’ Round 7 win over the Kangaroos, a match in which the Hawks’ unsociable brand of football was put under the microscope. Both clubs will be ready to pack a punch when they meet in Round 13 next year.


14. Round 23 Fixture (potential play-offs)

The floating fixture is supposed to build intrigue and add to the theatre that is football. Unfortunately for the AFL, the eight finals-bound teams had already been decided by Round 23 in 2015. In what was a fairly anticlimactic round, four teams that were out finals contention — Essendon, Collingwood, GWS and Melbourne — were the only teams to play on the final Sunday of the home and away season. But if the race for the final eight remains tight towards the end of 2016, expect the floating fixture do what it was designed to do: Keep us in suspense.


15. ‘Country Game’

Round 4: Essendon v Geelong at MCG (1.45pm, Saturday April 16)

KEVIN Sheedy has done it again. The brains behind the now traditional Anzac Day and Dreamtime at the ‘G games has masterminded another concept match involving Essendon: The Country Game. The Bombers will host Geelong at the MCG on a Saturday afternoon as part of an event that will pay tribute to country farmers, fire authorities and regional communities alike. Many country footy fans will also be invited to attend the match, with cheap and convenient public transport hoping to be implemented. Concept matches are hard to nail — just look at the recent New Zealand experiment. But knowing Sheeds’ successful history in this area, this game could stick.


16. Tassie under lights

Round 11: North Melbourne v Richmond at Blundstone Arena (7.50pm, Friday June 3)

FOOTY’S relationship with Tasmania extends to another level in Round 11 when the Kangaroos and Tigers meet under lights on the big Friday night stage. It’ll be the first night game — let alone Friday night clash — involving the Roos at Blundstone Arena. The two teams met in Hobart in 2015 and drew an impressive crowd of 16,131 — the biggest attendance recorded for a North game since the club’s partnership began with the Tasmanian capital in 2012. But as a stand-alone contest on the Friday night stage, that record could be beaten next June. Add to that the extra significance of the Roos breaking Richmond’s hearts at the MCG just over a month ago by eliminating them from the finals series and you’ve got a sensational match-up.


17. Grand Final re-match

Round 2: Hawthorn v West Coast Eagles at MCG (3.20pm, Sunday April 3)

WEST Coast won’t have to wait long to try and extract some solace and revenge for their abysmal 2015 grand final display. The Eagles return to the MCG — the same venue Hawthorn annihilated them at on footy’s grandest stage earlier this month — in Round 2 to take on the reigning champs. Adam Simpson’s men that day were humiliated by the Hawks, who’ll be aiming for a rare fourth consecutive flag in 2016. The Eagles will hope Geelong can beat up the Hawks to some extent six days beforehand in the Easter Monday game. But so often over the past four years, cometh the big stage, cometh the Hawks.