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Bulldogs, Swans are AFL fixture winners

AAP logoAAP 26/10/2016 Jason Phelan

On-field success, not tradition, rules supreme in formulating the AFL fixture, with grand-final combatants Sydney and the Western Bulldogs the big winners of the 2017 season draw.

Greater Western Sydney, whose stunning season ended in a preliminary thriller against the Dogs, have also enjoyed significant gains after years in the fixture wilderness.

The league's stated desire to reward success has led to a move away from gifting sought-after timeslots like Friday night to traditional powerbrokers Collingwood, Carlton and Richmond.

The Bulldogs will take the big stage of Friday night seven times next year after their drought-breaking premiership win, while the Swans have a league-high eight appearances in prime time.

The Giants will play the first Friday night game in their history - against the Bulldogs in Canberra in round six - which will be the first of three appearances in 2017.

Richmond, Friday night mainstays last year with six games, won't feature on that night once in 2017, although they do get to open the season in the now-standard Thursday-night clash with Carlton despite their on-field struggles.

The Magpies only have two Friday night matches and the Blues just one in a sign of the growing shift towards rewarding recent success.

"People want to see a contest and I don't think bigger Melbourne clubs necessarily command the premium they did for those (sought-after) slots," AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said on Thursday.

"We want to bank on known form with teams that are going to turn up and provide a contest."

The AFL executive in charge of putting together the fixture, Travis Auld, believes clubs are on board with the new direction.

"When you talk about clubs who lose Friday nights ... I think they understand," Auld said.

"If you finish 12th, 13th, 14th, they understand what comes with that and, certainly, the broadcasters understand that."

"I'm not prone to making close-ended statements but I reckon that's a good fixture," McLachlan said, referring to the Carlton-Richmond opener.

"They haven't been travelling particularly well, so I think if we were going to make a change, we probably would have (already).

"So I don't see that changing."

The league has increased the number of the popular Thursday night matches from five to eight - a number McLachlan believes is the maximum.

The 2017 draw also includes a historic match in China and the first game to be played for premiership points at a Victorian regional venue other than Geelong since 1952. The Bulldogs will host Port Adelaide in round 22 at Eureka Stadium in Ballarat.

Gold Coast next year will likely be the AFL's most-travelled club.

The Suns will be the nominal home team when they take on Port Adelaide at Jiangwan Sports Centre in China in round eight.

The Suns and the Power get the following weekend off, with the other 16 clubs to claim their byes in rounds 11-13.

Gold Coast are also the away team in matches against Melbourne in Alice Springs in round 10 and the Bulldogs in Cairns in round 18.

The Bulldogs will unfurl their AFL premiership flag at Etihad Stadium before the grand -inal rematch against Sydney at Etihad Stadium in round two.

The Swans' swag of eight Friday night games includes the annual Marn Grook clash with Hawthorn at the SCG.

The Swans will play eight home-and-away games in Victoria - the most since 1996.

The contentious bye round before the finals has been retained for a second year.

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