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Summer Showdown - but no AFLX yet - in pre-season schedule

Football

South Australia’s AFL teams will face off in a pre-season Showdown on Port Adelaide’s home turf next year – but the league remains uncertain its hybrid ‘AFLX’ format will see the light of day in 2018.

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The AFL’s JLT Community Series pre-season fixtures, released this morning, will see each club play two warm-up games, instead of the usual three.

Those will include a Power/Crows head-to-head on Saturday, March 10 at Alberton Oval, to start at 4.05pm.

The two sides last met in pre-season competition in 2015, when the Crows defeated Port by 24 points at AAMI Stadium.

Football fans will also have another Crows/Port double-header, with both clubs slated to play on Sunday February 25. Adelaide hosts Fremantle in Strathalbyn, while the Power have the chance to exorcise their 2017 demons when they take on West Coast at Perth’s Leederville Oval, resuming hostilities after the Eagles ended their September campaign in heartbreaking fashion.

All pre-season games will be broadcast on Fox Sports.

Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak and Adelaide captain Taylor Walker speak to the media ahead of this year’s second Showdown. Photo: David Mariuz / AAP

Port Adelaide chief Keith Thomas said the club was “delighted” to host the Crows at Alberton, “the scene of some iconic games over a number of decades at SANFL level involving Port Adelaide’s great historic rivals”.

“Now we look forward to another chapter in the ground’s history as we welcome our modern-day rivals, the Crows, to Alberton for the first time in an AFL fixture,” he said in a statement.

“I have no doubt the Port Adelaide community will rally behind this game and provide the Crows and their supporters a warm welcome,” he added, possibly sarcastically.

Port’s general manager of football Chris Davies said two pre-season games against AFL opposition was sufficient preparation for the regular season, pointing out that “match simulation is a significant part of our pre-season training” in any case.

“As we have in the past we’ll play an internal trial game as well, so the two JLT Community Series games will have our squad ready to go for the first round of the Home and Away season,” he said.

But AFL broadcasting manager Travis Auld today refused to say whether AFLX – played on a soccer-sized field between teams of seven – would happen next year.

“We’re not really in a position to finalise both the format and when we might program AFLX games,” Auld said.

“There’s no sticking points, it’s just a new product. New products take time to develop.

“We like to (proceed) pretty slowly with that stuff and we want to make sure that our format’s right, that our clubs have bought into the product and the journey of what we’re trying to do with it.”

The AFL have long been keen to explore a shortened format of the game, similar to Twenty20 cricket.

But support has been scarce, with Richmond great Kevin Bartlett last week branding it “a Mickey Mouse game (that) would have no interest for fans”.

The AFL’s pre-season competition will played across three weeks from February 24 with a bye scheduled for each club.

With the season proper starting on March 23, it was expected AFLX could be played either side of the pre-season games.

Unlike previous years, regional grounds will be used in places like Colac, Moe and Wangaratta instead of major venues like Etihad Stadium.

Reigning premiers Richmond will play Essendon in Wangaratta on the competition’s opening day, while Gold Coast face Geelong – potentially featuring star recruit Gary Ablett – in Townsville on March 4.

“We think we’ve struck the right balance with two (games each),” Auld said.

-with AAP

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