North Melbourne has asked the AFL to allow it to keep playing on Good Friday, despite a number of flops in the marquee fixture, reports The Age.
But they were unable to make a request for a primetime meeting with Port Adelaide following the somewhat contentious trade of No.1 pick Jason Horne-Francis.
The Kangaroos have lost by a combined 194 points in their two Good Friday games against the Western Bulldogs over the last two seasons.
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The fixture has been used to raise funds for the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, and in that regard has been a success. Last year it also drew the Kangaroos’ biggest home crowd by far, with 32,162 fans attending Marvel Stadium; their next-best home crowd was 22,666 for the upset win over Richmond.
North Melbourne CEO Ben Amarfio said the club understands why, given its poor performances, its place on Good Friday has been questioned.
He also seemed to suggest giving the Kangaroos a bigger club as an opponent would help the fixture.
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“We get that, in where we are in our rebuild cycle and our performance. But we, obviously, plan to be a more competitive outfit next season and there is no reason why we can’t put up a really good showing,” Amarfio told The Age.
“For us, it’s also about appealing to the kids. We think it’s an opportunity to grow our appeal to youth for our club. It’s been a very successful push for us in the growth of our membership. We have grown our membership to over 50,000 members now, and we have done that largely on the back of attracting a lot of kids. Good Friday is an important plank of our kids’ strategy.
“We have, obviously, played the Dogs over the last couple of years, but I am also conscious our biggest crowd we have ever had (on Good Friday) was against Essendon, over 40,000. It’s up to the AFL to which way they go.”
Meanwhile the Kangaroos’ first game against the Power since trading Horne-Francis there is sure to be a big occasion, and looms as the back-to-back wooden spooners’ best chance of playing a Friday night game.
North Melbourne has not played in a standalone Friday night fixture since 2019, a year in which it won 10 games and was coming off a 12-win season. In the three seasons since the Kangaroos have won nine games with one draw.
But there appears to be bad blood between some Kangaroos players and Horne-Francis while there is certainly frustration from the fanbase with the club’s first ever No.1 pick requesting a trade home after less than 12 months.
Amarfio said a Kangaroos-Power game “might” attract a large crowd at Marvel Stadium but the club did not request a marquee fixture for the contest given the deadline for requests was before the trade period.
“But by the same token it might be a good one for Port Adelaide,” he said.
“But, as I said, they would have had their request in … that one is going to fall where it falls. It won’t be engineered.”
The 2023 AFL fixture is expected to be released in late November or early December.
It’s expected there will be more Thursday night games while Rounds 1 to 15 are set to be locked in, after the fixture was released primarily in a rolling format in 2022, and only Rounds 1-9 locked in from the start.
The season may be extended to 24 rounds and 23 games with the consideration of an NRL-style ‘Magic Round’, where all 18 clubs play their matches in one city, likely to be Sydney.