ST KILDA supporters may not have to wait long next season to vent their displeasure at former star Brendon Goddard, with the first grudge match against his new team Essendon pencilled in for round four.
The Saints and Bombers met only once last season, in round 15 when the Saints prevailed by 71 points, but will almost certainly clash twice next year to capitalise on Goddard’s defection. His decision to shift clubs on the opening day of free agency is likely to prove a financial boon in terms of gate receipts for each team.
"St Kilda and Essendon are likely to play twice at this stage," AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan said.
"The first match is probably going to be in round four."
The two clubs already have a healthy rivalry. Almost 46,000 attended the round-15 clash at Etihad Stadium after a crowd of more than 47,500 filled the Docklands venue in round three.
At least one of next year’s matches may need to be held at the MCG to maximise attendance.
The Goddard showdown will add to the handful of blockbusters the AFL has to kick-start its season, which will open on the weekend of March 22-23, a week after the NAB Cup final.
Round one will again be split over two weeks. However, this time there will be two matches — Adelaide will host Essendon on Friday, March 22, and there will be a Fremantle-West Coast derby the following day.
This will be the first time since 1991, when the Crows made their debut, that Adelaide has hosted the opening match of the season.
The MCG is not available until the Easter weekend because of Sheffield Shield contractual obligations.
The four clubs that play on the opening week will have the second week off. Traditional rivals Carlton and Richmond will open their seasons on Easter Thursday at the MCG, with the round ending on Easter Monday when Geelong and Hawthorn do battle.
The Blues have requested a home fixture against Collingwood in round two, most likely on a Friday night as they seek to capitalise on having secured Mick Malthouse as coach, while Collingwood and Essendon will clash on Anzac Day in round five. The full fixture will be released later this month.
The AFL also looks certain to stage an "Ablett v Caddy" clash at Skilled Stadium at the start of winter in a historic home-and-away clash marking Geelong’s first game under lights at its traditional home.
Geelong is expected to play host to the Gold Coast on Saturday, June 1, the first of potentially three night games at Skilled Stadium next season.
Josh Caddy has crossed to Geelong with the Suns gaining the Cats’ first round compensation pick they received for Gary Ablett.
The expectation of the competition is that none of the top eight from 2012 will play the Gold Coast or Greater Western Sydney twice with the exception of Sydney which must have two games against the Giants.
Midfielder Farren Ray looks set to stay a Saint, according to his manager, Marty Pask.