AFL opening round locked in for QLD, NSW

AFL boss Andrew Dillon's desire to have "footy in every home around the country" is the driving factor behind the competition's inaugural Opening Round.

The league on Wednesday confirmed the 2024 season will start with a marquee set of four fixtures in Queensland and New South Wales before a full set of nine games are played the following week in round one.

Finalists Sydney and Melbourne will start the new campaign with a clash at the SCG on Thursday March 7, with new Swans ruckman Brodie Grundy to face his former teammates for the first time.

The Brisbane Lions host Carlton at the Gabba the following night before Gold Coast coach Damien Hardwick takes centre stage, leading the Suns into battle with his former club Richmond at Heritage Bank Stadium on Saturday.

GWS will meet reigning premiers Collingwood at Giants Stadium later that night.

The Lions-Blues and Giants-Magpies meetings are rematches of last season's preliminary finals.

The fixtures fall in the same week as the NRL continues round one of its 2024 season with its first matches of the year in Australia, following rugby league's season launch in Las Vegas on the previous weekend.

There are multiple clashes on the two competitions' schedules, with the Giants and Suns hosting Opening Round matches on the same day as NRL fixtures in their markets.

But the AFL hopes the Opening Round storylines will take some of the spotlight in the northern markets.

"The four match-ups are big, with four of our biggest-supported Victorian clubs travelling north, and we look forward to starting our season with real momentum before we head into a blockbuster round of matches in Round 1," AFL CEO Dillon said.

"Given this weekend also falls on the Labour Day long weekend in Victoria it presents a terrific opportunity for fans to travel north to support their club and enjoy an extended interstate break."

"We are driven to have footy in every home around the country, whether that be playing, coaching, umpiring, supporting or volunteering and starting the season across Queensland and NSW will only amplify this desire."

Sydney chief executive Tom Harley sees Opening Round as an opportunity for clubs in Queensland and NSW to boost their profiles.

"We've all become accustomed to starting the season with a bang in Melbourne, Carlton and Richmond have had a monopoly on that for a fair bit of time now," Harley said.

"So if we are to be truly Australia's game, with four of the clubs north of the Murray (River) ... it's an opportunity.

"It's not going to be the only thing, it's not going to be a silver bullet."

"I would expect us to have a really strong turnout for that first game and I'd also expect our next home game, whenever that is, to have a strong turnout too."

"So we'll certainly take the opportunity from the club's point of view to bask in that spotlight and make sure we put on a good show."

Carlton and Richmond will do battle on Thursday March 14 to kick off a full set of nine matches in round one.

The round one fixture is reportedly set to include Essendon-Hawthorn, Geelong-St Kilda and Melbourne-Western Bulldogs matches, with the AFL to confirm the full season schedule on Thursday.

The eight teams that play in the Opening Round will have a bye between rounds two and six.

It will mean all 18 teams will have played the same number of games by the start of round seven.

The byes will not occur in round four, which has been locked in for 'Gather Round', when all clubs will meet for a full set of fixtures in South Australia.