Gary Ablett is back at Geelong after being traded by the Suns.
Gary Ablett is back at Geelong after being traded by the Suns.

Ablett gets early chance to face Suns for Cats

GARY Ablett will have an early opportunity to face his ex-Gold Coast teammates when Geelong face his old club in the second week of the pre-season competition next year.

The AFL has released the JLT Series fixture for 2018, to run across three weeks in late February and early March.

Clubs will each play two matches across the three weeks, with the league cutting pre-season games from three to two.

All matches will be played at regional grounds, with no games scheduled at any of the AFL season venues, including Etihad Stadium.

AFL fixture boss Travis Auld said by reducing the pre-season matches from three to two is in response to feedback from clubs that the pre-season competition has been too long.

"It's fair to say there's varied views - some would like less games, some would like more games, we think we've struck the right balance with two,” Auld said.

"Some clubs may decide to play a practice match outside of this, but certainly there's enough flexibility and enough time to have the appropriate preparation for the home and away season.”

Despite speculation, no AFLX matches have been scheduled as part of the pre-season competition with the AFL declaring the format is still in the development process.

There is no announcement on when AFLX matches will be played.

Ablett crossed from the Suns to the Cats during the trade period after seven years on the Gold Coast.

The two teams will clash on March 4 in Townsville.

North Melbourne and Melbourne will kick off the pre-season competition on Saturday 24 February with a clash in Hobart before traditional rivals Essendon and Richmond do battle in their first hitout of the year in Wangaratta.

Despite the success of AFLW and AFL pre-season matches last year, the league has not scheduled any double-headers during pre-season for 2018.

The league said it has provided the AFLW with "clean air' by programming just one men's pre-season games on Friday night.

The AFLW fixture will be released on Friday.

"What we found, a couple of things, one is that AFLW competition deserves it's own clean air,” Auld said.

"We were overwhelmed with the level of support we received both in terms of the Tv audience but also the attendance on the day.”

"And in some cases, they're different crowds so we decided this year to keep the two separate and run them as two standalone competitions.”

JLT SERIES FIXTURE

WEEK ONE

Saturday, February 24

North Melbourne v Melbourne, Kingston Twin Ovals (Hobart), 2.05pm EDT

Essendon v Richmond, Norm Minns Oval (Wangaratta), 4.35pm EDT

Sunday, February 25

Adelaide v Fremantle, Strathbalyn Oval 1.35pm CDT

West Coast Eagles v Port Adelaide, Leederville Oval, 3.35pm WST

WEEK TWO

Wednesday, February 28

Carlton v St Kilda, Ikon Park, 7.10pm EDT

GWS Giant v Collingwood, UNSW Canberra Oval, 7.10pm EDT

Saturday, March 3

Western Bulldogs v Hawthorn, Mars Stadium (Ballarat) 2.05pm EDT

Brisbane Lions v Sydney Swans, Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex, 3.35pm EST

Sunday, March 4

Gold Coast Suns v Geelong, Riverway Stadium (Townsville), 3.35pm EST

WEEK THREE

Wednesday, March 7

Richmond v North Melbourne, Ikon Park, 7.05pm EDT

Melbourne v St Kilda, Casey Fields, 7.05pm EDT

Sydney Swans v GWS Giants, Blacktown Sports Park, 7.40pm EDT

Saturday, March 10

Collingwood v Western Bulldogs, Ted Summerton Reserve (Moe), 2.05pm EDT

Port Adelaide v Adelaide, Alberton Oval, 4.05pm CDT

Hawthorn v Carlton, UTAS Stadium Tasmania, 7.05pm EDT

Sunday, March 11

Geelong v Essendon, Central Reserve (Colac), 2.05pm EDT

Gold Coast Suns v Brisbane Lions, Frankhauser Reserve (Southport), 3.35pm EST

Fremantle v West Coast Eagles, HBF Arena (Joondalup), 4.05pm WST


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