West Coast have expressed their disappointment after being handed the AFL’s toughest fixture for the 2020 season, with two games in Queensland and a trip to Launceston adding to the club’s already significant travel burden.
The Perth-based team will travel approximately 71,670 kilometres in 10 away trips confirmed in Thursday’s fixture release.
That includes long-distance journeys to Metricon Stadium to face Gold Coast in round nine, the Gabba to take on Brisbane in round 21 and a visit to Launceston on Anzac Day to meet Hawthorn at University of Tasmania Stadium.
There are no direct commercial flights between Perth and Launceston.
Earlier this year, the Eagles chartered their own plane to take them directly to Avalon Airport when they faced Geelong at GMHBA Stadium on a Saturday night.
The 2018 premiers could do the same next season, having also been scheduled to play the Cats in Geelong on a Friday night in round 16.
West Coast issued a carefully-worded statement on Thursday saying they had developed initiatives to handle the travel toll.
“Fixtures are always tough and we often don’t get what we request, but we make the case to the AFL of the extreme challenges of being based in Perth, travelling huge distances each season and having to return late at night or very early in the morning,” chief executive Trevor Nisbett said.
“Our sports science team, our strength and conditioning staff and our coaches are highly professional in their approach to travel, match day and recovery.”
Even without the travel, West Coast’s draw is tough.
The Eagles will double up against three out of four 2019 preliminary-finalists: premiers Richmond, Collingwood and Geelong.
West Coast will host Essendon on a Thursday night in round 13 after another of their pleas to the AFL fell on deaf ears.
“We did make the request to avoid a Thursday game for the benefit of our regional and metro-based members,” Nisbett said.
Thursday night games in Perth start at 6.10pm local time to cater for the eastern states television market, making it difficult for members to attend.
Cross-town battlers Fremantle also had cause for disappointment after being frozen out of the primetime Friday night slot for a fourth straight season, despite boasting one of the AFL’s superstars in two-time Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe.
THE 2020 AFL FIXTURE AT A GLANCE
* Richmond and Geelong have the most Friday night games, six each. Gold Coast, Fremantle and Carlton are the only clubs not to play on Friday night
* Four games on Anzac Day, including a twilight 4.20pm AEST start for Collingwood versus Essendon, one hour later than usual
* GWS and Geelong to host first double-headers with AFLW games, in rounds one and seven
* Western Bulldogs play just one 2019 finalist twice (GWS)
* Essendon to play in four of the nine Thursday night games
* Melbourne play twice against just one top-six team from last season, Collingwood
* Two games on Good Friday – North Melbourne versus Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide against West Coast