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All eyes on Adelaide for season opener

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The Crows will kick off the 2018 season in the national spotlight, with a Friday night showcase against mooted finalist Essendon at Etihad Stadium, while the Power will host Fremantle in an Adelaide Oval twilight match the following day.

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The AFL’s drip-feed of next year’s fixture has continued with the release of the first round schedule, and despite Port Adelaide’s low-key season opener, AFL scheduling and broadcast manager Travis Auld insists “we are looking to get the Power in some high-rating timeslots” given the hype surrounding their fertile trade period.

Gary Ablett’s first game for Geelong in eight years may be a Sunday showdown at the MCG, against the emerging Melbourne Demons.

Ablett returned to the club he won two premierships with during the trade period, after seven seasons with the Gold Coast Suns.

The match could also feature the Demons debut of former star Adelaide defender Jake Lever, after his controversial exit this month.

The season will as usual kick off with the now traditional Thursday night fixture between Richmond and Carlton, which has added significance as the Tigers play their first match since breaking their 37-year premiership drought.

Luke Hodge could make his Brisbane Lions debut against St Kilda on the opening Saturday afternoon at Etihad Stadium.

His former club Hawthorn will look to get off to a good start in 2018 against Collingwood, at the MCG on Saturday night.

West Coast also have the distinction of being the first team to play at the new Perth Stadium when they host Sydney in the final game of the round, late on Sunday afternoon.

The Crows will also reportedly face Melbourne at Traeger Park in Alice Springs on Sunday May 27, which looms as their first meeting with defender Jake Lever since his trade week defection.

ROUND ONE DRAW FOR 2018 AFL SEASON:

Thursday, March 22

* Richmond v Carlton, MCG, 7.25pm AEDT

Friday, March 23

* Essendon v Adelaide, Etihad Stadium, 7.50pm AEDT

Saturday, March 24

* St Kilda v Brisbane Lions, Etihad Stadium, 3.35pm AEDT

* Port Adelaide v Fremantle, Adelaide Oval, 4.05pm CDT

* Gold Coast v North Melbourne, Cazaly’s Stadium, Cairns, 6.25pm AEST

* Hawthorn v Collingwood, MCG, 7.25pm AEDT

Sunday, March 25

* Greater Western Sydney v Western Bulldogs, Canberra, 1.10pm AEDT

* Melbourne v Geelong, MCG, 3.20pm AEDT

* West Coast v Sydney, Perth Stadium, 4.10pm WST

-with AAP 

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