By JESS WEBSTER
With the 2018 NEAFL fixture released on Friday, we take a look at what it means for your club ahead of another big season of football in the northern states.
To download your copy of the full fixture, click here: 2018 NEAFL Fixture – Final
First Four: Gold Coast (home), NT Thunder (home), Southport (away), Canberra (away)
Last Four: Bye, Southport (home), Redland (away), Canberra (away)
Byes: 8, 14, 18
Big moment: Maroochydore will host a NEAFL match for the first time in 2018, and the local fans would be delighted to see the Hornets take on the defending premier. Not only do both clubs have a strong link to the region, with the likes of former Lion and now Aspley forward Jono Freeman, Eric Hipwood (Brisbane), Daniel Henderson (Aspley) and Brad Dale (Aspley) hailing from the Sunshine Coast, but it will present the chance for Aspley to seek revenge on a horror 2017 against Brisbane, losing both matches by a combined 213 points.
Summary: Aspley will warm up its 2018 campaign by hosting Gold Coast and NT Thunder at home in the opening two rounds, before a road trip to Southport and an interstate clash against Canberra rounding out their first month. The Hornets will have their first bye ahead of a huge clash against defending premier Brisbane at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast. They’ll play NT Thunder three times – the last coming in Round 17 at TIO Stadium, before finishing off the season with two home games and another trip to Canberra.
First Four: NT Thunder (away), Sydney (home), Gold Coast (home), GIANTS (away)
Last Four: Sydney (away), Bye, Gold Coast (away), GIANTS (away)
Byes: 5, 11, 19
Big moment: Fans won’t have to wait long until the NEAFL Grand Final rematch with Brisbane set to host Sydney in Round 2 at Burpengary. The two top sides of 2017 produced some epic battles last year, with two wins to the Lions and one to the Swans in the regular season. But they saved their biggest match until last as the Lions withstood a fightback from Sydney to claim the premiership by three points at the SCG. Expect fireworks when the two rivals go head-to-head in early 2018.
Summary: The defending premier will open its title defence with a tough opening month, including a trip to Darwin in the opening round followed by three matches in a row against all other AFL clubs – at a time when their lists are generally at their healthiest. The Lions will have some reprieve during the middle of the season, with five games in Queensland plus two byes from Rounds 5-11. The Lions will play Sydney away twice in the run home, with away matches against Gold Coast and the GIANTS to finish off the minor rounds.
First Four: Southport (home), Sydney Uni (home), Bye, Redland (away)
Last Four: Southport (away), Sydney (home, Sydney Uni (away), Aspley (home)
Byes: 2, 8, 13, 17
Big moment: It will be a celebration of Canberra football in Round 7 when the Demons host the GIANTS at Manuka Oval. With the AFL Canberra representative side to play on the same day, expect plenty of local talent on display at every corner.
Summary: Canberra will spread its home games across three venues in the region in 2018 with Allinsure Park, Manuka Oval and the redeveloped Phillip Oval all hosting NEAFL football. The Demons will kick off their season on Good Friday against Southport and will ease in to the new season with five of their first seven matches at home. They will host defending premier Brisbane in Round 10, followed by a night match at home against NT Thunder. After a bye in Round 13, the Demons’ season will ramp up with five of their last seven games against clubs which featured in last year’s top six.
First Four: Aspley (away), GIANTS (Mackay), Brisbane (away), Sydney (home)
Last Four: Bye, GIANTS (home), Brisbane (home), Sydney (away)
Byes: 8, 14, 18
Big moment: Gold Coast were responsible for ending Brisbane’s record winning streak in the NEAFL last year with an epic seven-point victory at the Gabba in Round 20, which all but sealed the Suns’ home final. It was the last time the Lions were beaten on their way to premiership success, and the next time they clash in Round 3, 2018, will be another memorable chapter of the Queensland clubs’ rivalry.
Summary: With the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast delaying access to Metricon Stadium for the first half of the season, the Suns are facing a challenging draw in 2018. They won’t have access to their home venue until Round 11, and it will be a massive game against Grand Finalists Sydney in an AFL curtain raiser. The Suns will play two regional games in the first month against the GIANTS in Mackay (Rd 2) and Sydney in Lismore (Rd 4), following by a long trip to Canberra in Round 5. Gold Coas will then travel to Darwin to face NT Thunder in Round 7 before their first bye. The draw becomes more friendly from then on, with six of the Suns last 11 matches on the Gold Coast.
First Four: Sydney (away), Gold Coast (Mackay), Bye, Brisbane (home)
Last Four: Bye, Gold Coast (Away), Sydney (home), Brisbane (home)
Byes: 3, 11, 18
Big moment: The GIANTS suffered a horrific injury toll in 2017 to record only two wins, and they’ll begin a new season with no bigger test than coming up against local rivals Sydney at the SCG as an AFL curtain raiser. Will all eyes on the two clubs at both levels, the NEAFL clash will be a good indicator of the their depth as the perfect pre-curser to a blockbuster AFL clash later that evening.
Summary: The GIANTS will be thrust in to a new season with the bulk of their travel coming in the first half of the year. They will take on Gold Coast in Mackay in Round 2, and will add matches against Southport (Fankhauser Reserve), Canberra (Manuka Oval), NT Thunder (TIO Stadium) before a mid-season by in Round 11. Seven of the GIANTS last nine games of the year are scheduled to be AFL curtain raisers – including four at Spotless Stadium – as they finish off the minor rounds against last year’s Grand Finalists Sydney and Brisbane.
First Four: Brisbane (home), Aspley (away), Sydney Uni (home), Redland (Alice Springs)
Last Four: Bye, Redland (home), Southport (home), Sydney Uni (away)
Byes: 5, 12, 18
Big moment: It doesn’t get any bigger for NT Thunder than to host the defending premier at home in Round 1. The Lions upset the Territorians on home turf last year, creating history with the club’s first ever win at TIO Stadium. With NT Thunder’s home record taking a hit in 2017, expect the Territory to come out firing in their season opener in the hope of kicking off 2018 with a bang.
Summary: Overall it’s a pretty enticing draw for NT Thunder coming off an Elimination Final exit last year. They will host all four AFL clubs at home and will enjoy the run home with six of their last eight games at TIO Stadium. The annual ANZAC Round match against Redland will be played in Alice Springs in the clubs’ only appearance in the Red Centre, and Thunder will also face a challenging night match in Canberra in the middle of June before a bye in Rond 12.
First Four: Southport (home), Sydney Uni (away), Canberra (home), NT Thunder (away)
Last Four: Sydney Uni (home), NT Thunder (away), Aspley (away), Southport (away)
Byes: 5, 12, 17
Big moment: The ANZAC Round clash against NT Thunder in Alice Springs shapes as an early season test of Redland’s finals credentials. The Bombers have the equal best record of a visiting team at the venue, with Southport the only other current NEAFL club to have won more than once. With two interstate trips against Sydney Uni and NT in the opening month, an interstate scalp against one of those teams will be a big confidence boost heading into their first bye.
Summary: Although the Bombers are facing two trip to the Territory against NT Thunder in 2018, they will also host both Grand Finalists Sydney and Brisbane at home.Teo early round home matches against Southport and Canberra will be important in setting the Bombers up for the middle stage of the season, ahead of games against the Lions, Swans and GIANTS (away) before another bye in Round 12. Redland will only travel interstate twice in the second half of the year, against Canberra (Rd 15) and NT Thunder (Rd 19).
First Four: Canberra (away), Redland (away), Bye, Aspley (home)
Last Four: Canberra (home), Aspley (away), NT Thunder (away), Redland (home)
Byes: 2, 8, 12, 17
Big moment: The Sharks have been slow starters in the last three seasons, winning just four games in the opening month of each year since 2015. The club will be circling its season opener on Good Friday against Canberra at Allinsure Park as a must-win game under new coach Stephen Daniel, as the new-look squad aims to turn a new page in their quest to return to the top six.
Summary: Southport will need to navigate its way through a tricky first half of the season before making a push to return to finals action in the un home next year. The Sharks only travel three times in the first half of 2018, but they are huge clashes against Canberra, Sydney Uni and Sydney Swans. They have an opportunity to bank some points in the middle stretch, with only one trip interstate to Darwin to take on NT Thunder falling between rounds 9-16. In the final month, another trip to Darwin will be taxing, but they host Canberra and Redland at home in the last four weeks.
First Four: GIANTS (home), Brisbane (away), Bye, Gold Coast (away)
Last Four: Brisbane (home), Canberra (away), GIANTS (away), Gold Coast (home)
Byes: 3, 12, 17
Big moment: A huge pre-finals blockbuster looms in Round 20 when the GIANTS and Swans fight it out in a NEAFL/AFL double-header at Spotless Stadium. The local derby towards the end of August will be a treat for fans of both clubs as they look to gain valuable momentum and confidence approaching the business end of the year. Adding extra spice to the clash is the fact the GIANTS have the best winning record against the Swans in the NEAFL with 11 wins – three more than Brisbane with eight.
Summary: The Swans’ NEAFL fixture has a bit of everything for their fans with two regional matches, away trips to Canberra and Darwin and plenty of AFL curtain raisers on offer. Beginning their season with a home clash against the GIANTS, a Grand Final rematch against Brisbane and a regional match in Lismore, the Swans will settle in to their season with the potential of five AFL curtain raisers in a row from Rounds 5-9. Another regional match to Wollongong falls in Round 14, a week before the Swan’s trip to TIO Stadium to face NT Thunder, but three of their last four games of the minor rounds will be in Sydney.
First Four: Canberra (away), Redland (home), NT Thunder (away), Southport (home)
Last Four: Redland (away), Bye, Canberra (home), NT Thunder (home)
Byes: 5, 13, 19
Big moment: It’s always a feature of the season to play under lights at the SCG on a Friday night, but for Sydney University, coming away with the four points has been their toughest challenge. The Students have a 1-9 record against Sydney since they joined the NEAFL in 2012, with their only victory coming at the SCG in Round 12, 2015. A rare win over the Swans would be a moment to savour for the club desperate to reach a maiden Grand Final berth in 2018.
Summary: Sydney Uni’s annual Friday night clash against Sydney at the SCG returns in 2018 as one of two AFL curtain raisers highlighting the Students’ fixture. Their one trip to Darwin falls in Round 3 in their first big test. After the Students first bye in Round 5, matches against last year’s top six teams Aspley (twice), NT Thunder, Sydney and Gold Coast following in the next seven weeks. Three away matches against Canberra (Rd 14), Southport (Rd 16) and Redland (Rd 18) will be followed by two final round matches at home.
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