THE Western Bulldogs say they have been crunched commercially and in football terms as clubs begin to assess their fixture for the 2013 campaign.
The battling Bulldogs are one of five teams banished from the Friday night timeslot and will predominantly appear on subscriber television. It also has the hardest run of this year's bottom-four clubs.
The Bulldogs begin their campaign with two home matches, but they are against the low-drawing Brisbane Lions and Fremantle. However, it was granted a request to host a major Victorian club - Essendon - on multicultural weekend.
Bulldogs chief executive Simon Garlick said his club faced ''some obstacles''.
''From a football perspective, 2013 presents a demanding schedule, highlighted by a slight increase of interstate travel and tough three-to-four-week blocks against finalists from 2012,'' Garlick said.
North Melbourne, another club that has struggled for exposure in recent years, was granted a strong draw commercially, with three Friday night games.
But after a great 2012 draw helped it reach the finals, it was were drawn to play powerhouses Collingwood, Geelong, Hawthorn and Sydney over the first five rounds, with return clashes against the Magpies, Cats and Hawks.
Geelong must also brace for a gruelling start, with a block of six-day breaks and no games at Simonds Stadium until round 10 because of the ground's redevelopment.
Cats football manager Neil Balme admitted the club's veterans would not have time to ease their way into the campaign because of three successive six-day breaks.
''It's so individualised it just depends on how each of the old blokes are, whether they're able to play all the games, but we'll have to wait and see to work it out,'' Balme said.
This year's grand finalists, Sydney and Hawthorn, were presented with contrasting starts.
Hawthorn had one of the toughest draws in 2012 and was handed arguably the most difficult for next year, which starts with matches against all seven of this year's other finalists, including Geelong in round one and West Coast in Perth in round two.
Sydney can expect far less attrition when it opens its premiership defence against Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast. It also plays St Kilda and Brisbane - which both missed the finals this year - before the grand final rematch in round seven at the MCG.
The AFL's decision to have Carlton and Hawthorn battle at Etihad Stadium in round 12, rather than at the MCG, could mean supporters from both teams are locked out.
Collingwood has another potentially bruising campaign, but will again be prominent in prime-time, with seven of its 10 night matches played in the coveted Friday night slot.
Essendon will play 11 night games and, like Collingwood, has five trips outside Melbourne.
St Kilda can lay claim to having arguably the toughest draw of the sides that missed the finals in 2012, but was granted its request to play two high-drawing Victorian teams, Richmond and Essendon, in its first two home games.
The Saints and Sydney will play on Anzac Day in the New Zealand capital of Wellington, the first premiership match to be played outside Australia.