With the AFL releasing the fixture for next year's premiership season just yesterday, it comes as no shock to me to see the Western Bulldogs headline the prime-time slots for next season. They completed the unbelievable task of winning the premiership from seventh place on the ladder, having had to win two games interstate and dethrone last year's premiers in the process.
Of course though, with being the champions, comes a reasonably tough draw, and for the Western Bulldogs in 2017, they'll be no exception.
They'll play the Grand Finalists in Sydney twice, they'll play the team they knocked off in the preliminary final – the Giants, twice as well. They also play West Coast, North Melbourne and Brisbane twice.
They'll only play at Etihad Stadium 11 times next year, as opposed to the 14 games they played this year, with the Bulldogs being forced to travel to Perth twice (Round three and Round eight), Queensland twice (Round 18 in Cairns and Round 20 in Brisbane) and trips to Adelaide (Round 16), Sydney (Round 12) and Canberra (Round six). They would've loved to have played a few more games at the MCG next year after tasting premiership glory, but will only see it twice during the home and away season (Round one and Round 17).
In this day and age, breaks between games have become as important as anything else in footy, but the Dogs will get eight six-day breaks in 2017, which – along with Geelong, Hawthorn and Melbourne – is the most of any team in the competition, and with all the travelling they've got to do as well, it really isn't ideal for the Doggies, but I highly doubt that will play on the minds of the players.
But the good outweighs the bad for the Bulldogs' 2017 draw. They'll play a Thursday night game in round 12 and seven Friday night games next year, starting with a round one showdown against Collingwood at the MCG. This will be the first time the Dogs have played on a Friday night game in the opening round since 2006. This will be a game that should attract a large number of people to the game, especially if new recruit Travis Cloke pulls on the red, white and blue against his former Collingwood team mates.
The following week sees the Bulldogs in a Grand Final rematch against the Swans under the roof of Etihad Stadium in another game that should get a huge number in, given that nearly 100,000 people stuffed in the MCG on Grand Final day this year. This will be one of only two home Friday night games that the Bulldogs will participate in, with the other home Friday night game for the Dogs not happening until round 21 when they host the Greater Western Sydney Giants in what should be another chapter in this emerging rivalry between the two teams.
In addition to this, the Bulldogs will make history in at least, two of their 22 games next season. Round four will see them square off against North Melbourne in the AFL's first-ever game held on Good Friday. North Melbourne had been pushing for this game for years, and for the Bulldogs to be a part of the first-ever game is incredible. The game should be pushing for 45-50,000 given that most people have the Friday off.
The other game happens in round 22, where the Bulldogs will host and play a game for premiership points in Ballarat's Eureka Stadium for the first time in AFL history when they play Port Adelaide. The Western Bulldogs have had an association with the city of Ballarat over the last couple of years, with the club looking to begin hosting games from 2017. They'll only get one game there next year, but will look to get two or three from 2018 in hopes to get more people from the Western regions of Victoria on board the Bulldog Bandwagon.
Overall, it's a very decent fixture for the reigning champions. Out of the teams they play twice, the Dogs should be able to beat Brisbane, North Melbourne and West Coast on both occasions and the meetings between the Swans and the Giants will make very interesting viewing. Bulldog fans should be happy with the amount of exposure the side will get underneath the Friday night lights, and should be delighted with the club being apart of the inaugural Good Friday game.
Western Bulldogs 2017 Fixture (All times shown are Melbourne times)
Round 1 – Friday, March 24
Collingwood vs Western Bulldogs – Melbourne Cricket Ground (7.50pm)
Round 2 – Friday, March 31
Western Bulldogs vs Sydney Swans – Etihad Stadium (7.50pm)
Round 3 – Saturday, April 8
Fremantle vs Western Bulldogs – Domain Stadium (7.40pm)
Round 4 – Friday, April 14
North Melbourne vs Western Bulldogs – Etihad Stadium (4.20pm)
Round 5 – Saturday, April 22
Western Bulldogs vs Brisbane Lions – Etihad Stadium (1.45pm)
Round 6 – Friday, April 28
GWS Giants vs Western Bulldogs – Manuka Oval (7.50pm)
Round 7 – Saturday, May 6
Western Bulldogs vs Richmond – Etihad Stadium (7.25pm)
Round 8 – Friday, May 12
Western Bulldogs vs West Coast – Domain Stadium (8:10pm)
Round 9 – Friday, May 19
Geelong vs Western Bulldogs – Simonds Stadium (7.50pm)
Round 10 – Saturday, May 27
Western Bulldogs vs St. Kilda – Etihad Stadium (1.45pm)
Round 11 – BYE
Round 12 – Thursday, June 8
Sydney Swans vs Western Bulldogs – Sydney Cricket Ground (7.20pm)
Round 13 – Sunday, June 18
Western Bulldogs vs Melbourne – Etihad Stadium (3.20pm)
Round 14 – Saturday, June 24
Western Bulldogs vs North Melbourne – Etihad Stadium (7.25pm)
Round 15 – Saturday, July 1
Western Bulldogs vs West Coast – Etihad Stadium (1.45pm)
Round 16 – Friday, July 7
Adelaide vs Western Bulldogs – Adelaide Oval (7.50pm)
Round 17 – Sunday, July 16
Carlton vs Western Bulldogs – Melbourne Cricket Ground (3.20pm)
Round 18 – Saturday, July 22
Western Bulldogs vs Gold Coast Suns – Cazaly's Stadium (4.35pm)
Round 19 – Sunday, July 30
Western Bulldogs vs Essendon – Etihad Stadiun (1.10pm)
Round 20 – Saturday, August 5
Brisbane Lions vs Western Bulldogs – GABBA (4.35pm)
Round 21 – Friday, August 11
Western Bulldogs vs GWS Giants – Etihad Stadium (7.50pm)
Round 22 – Saturday, August 19
Western Bulldogs vs Port Adelaide – Eureka Stadium (1.45pm)
Round 23 – Date and Time TBA
Hawthorn vs Western Bulldogs – Etihad Stadium