Jake Lever in action. Picture: Getty
Jake Lever in action. Picture: Getty

The grudge matches and best clashes of 2018

HAWTHORN playing Brisbane wouldn't be marked down in too many fixtures but Luke Hodge playing against his former club makes this a must-watch game next season.

Grudge games could be the theme for 2018 with Jack Watts, Gary Ablett and Jake Lever set for blockbuster match ups against their ex-teammates.

The 2018 fixture has been released and JAY CLARK reveals the 10 games you can't miss.


1. Adelaide v Melbourne, Adelaide Oval

ROUND 19 - Saturday July 28 at 7.40pm (EST)

It seemed like all of Adelaide was filthy when Jake lever left the Crows. There were allegations the captain, Taylor Walker, did not want Lever to play in the finals and then they rebuked his best and fairest invite, his manager said. So Lever won't get a friendly reception when the Crows host Lever's Demons in Round 19. And keep your eyes peeled for anytime Lever and Walker are in the same aerial contest. There will be fireworks.

2. Richmond v Adelaide, Adelaide Oval

ROUND 2 - Thursday March 29 at 7.50pm (EDT)

The Crows were awful in the Grand Final and they know it. We don't mean to discredit the Tigers' performance, but what their opponents dished up will haunt them all summer. In Round 2, Adelaide will get an early chance to get one back against the Tigers, albeit at Adelaide Oval. All week we will get to see those famous images of the Tigers' premiership win in the build-up to the clash and it will be a packed house to watch the Grand Final rematch on Easter Thursday. It won't make up for the Grand Final no-show, of course, but Don Pyke should have his men pretty wound up for this one.

3. Melbourne v Richmond, MCG

ROUND 5 - Tuesday April 24 at 7.25pm (EST)

Last year's Anzac Day eve match between the Tigers and Dees was something special. The pre-match ceremony was another incredible tribute to the Diggers in front of a night time back drop and the game didn't disappoint either, with the Tigers triumphing by 13 points over the injury-hit Demons. That was in front of almost 86,000 fans, beating the MCG estimate on the night by about 10,000. There's a bit of feeling between the two teams and the next instalment of this building rivalry should attract in the vicinity of 90,000.

Steven Motlop to make his Showdown debut in Round 8. Picture: Picture: Tymunna Clements
Steven Motlop to make his Showdown debut in Round 8. Picture: Picture: Tymunna Clements

4. Port Adelaide v Adelaide, Adelaide Oval

ROUND 8 - Saturday May 12 at 5.10pm (EST)

Port Adelaide has gone all-out to win a flag this year after topping up in the trade period with Jack Watts, Steve Motlop and Tom Rockliff. It has supercharged the Power midfield and the traditional Showdown battle will be a beauty between two genuine premiership heavyweights in 2018. The Power were belted and embarrassed by 84 points when they last met, so ken Hinkley's men have some respect to win back in South Australia. Bryce Gibbs will make his Showdown debut for the Crows, too.

5. Collingwood v Essendon, MCG

ROUND 5 - Wednesday April 25 at 3.20pm (EST)

No matter where the two teams are on the ladder, this day is always one of the biggest on the footy calendar. We love the respect shown to the Diggers and service men and women throughout the Anzac Day service and these two might clubs always deliver on the values of courage, mateship, commitment and sacrifice when the ball is bounced. The Bombers are on the up after a successful trade period and Collingwood is desperate for a big year, after being handed a softer draw for 2018. Lock in a big crowd, a spine-tingling Last Post and plenty of passion for this one.

Essendon recruit Jake Stringer with Bombers coach John Worsfold. Picture: essendonfc.com.au
Essendon recruit Jake Stringer with Bombers coach John Worsfold. Picture: essendonfc.com.au

6. Western Bulldogs v Essendon, Etihad Stadium

ROUND 3 - Sunday April 8 at 3.20pm (EST)

It caught the footy world by shock when the Dogs hung a for sale sign around the neck of Jake Stringer on the eve of the trade period. Yes, he had a poor year, but there are plenty of good judges who think Stringer can become a top-20 player in the game when he matures, physically and mentally. So it will be interesting to see what he can deliver against his former premiership teammates when the two teams collide early in the season. He has vowed to get "fitter than ever" over summer with the Bombers' preparing keen to play him more through the midfield. Geez, he'd love to kick a couple of snags, too, against his old mob.

7. Melbourne v Geelong, MCG

ROUND 1 - Sunday March 25 at 3.20pm (EDT)

Remember the last time Jack Viney played on Gary Ablett? The Demons' vice-captain gave the superstar midfielder's sore shoulder a working over and there could be more in store in Round 1. The problem for Viney is, he will also have Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield to handle as well, as the Cats' superstar midfield trio step out for the first time together in blue and white hoops. In any case, the whole footy world will be intrigued to see how Gazza performs and how much he or Danger plays forward. What a statement it would be from the young Dees if they can upset the Cats big guns in the season-opener.

Jarryd Roughead and Luke Hodge to lock horns in Round 17. Picture: Andrew Henshaw
Jarryd Roughead and Luke Hodge to lock horns in Round 17. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

8. Hawthorn v Brisbane, University of Tasmania Stadium

ROUND 17 - Saturday July 14 at 1.45 (EST)

Alastair Clarkson said it would rip his guts out seeing Luke Hodge in another club's jumper. So imagine the sick feeling that would consume all Hawthorn fans if 'Hodgey' actually led the Lions to a victory in their first meeting against the brown and gold next year. Clearly, there is a lot of love and respect at Hawthorn for Hodge, but his excellent autobiography wasn't titled 'The General' for nothing. He will want the four points, bad. Just make sure the broadcasters keep a camera on Clarko in the Coaches box. This will be good.

9. Port Adelaide v Melbourne, Adelaide Oval

ROUND 14 - Friday June 22 at 7.50pm (EST)

You could understand Jack Watts' confusion. In his early years, Watts copped it from the Melbourne faithful for not being a dominant player, as a No. 1 draft pick. Now that he has been traded to the Power, they are filthy with the club for letting him go. At the best and fairest, he got the loudest cheer, and you'd think there will be plenty of love from the Dees' faithful when they take on his new club. Wattsy was not thrilled he was put up for trade, and will want to let Simon Goodwin and Co. know they made a mistake on game day.

10. Geelong v Hawthorn, MCG

ROUND 2 - Monday April 2 at 3.20pm (EST)

There has been a significant changing of the guard at both clubs over the past few years but this match always gets circled on the footy calendar. The Cats have won the past three matches between the pair, by two, 86 and three points, to get the Kennett Curse back on track again. Now that the big guy has taken the back the reins at Waverley, we think some extra spice will return for this one. It will be interesting to see how Alastair Clarkson handles the Ablett-Selwood-Dangerfield triumvirate.

Gary Ablett to return to the Cattery in Round 4. Picture: Getty
Gary Ablett to return to the Cattery in Round 4. Picture: Getty

11. Geelong v St Kilda GMHBA Stadium

ROUND 4 - Sunday April 15 at 4.40pm (EST)

The little master will return to the Cattery for his first game there in blue and white hoops in eight years. You know what the reaction from the Geelong faithful will be like. They love Gazza at the Cattery and it will be fun to watch him do his thing where it all started as a small forward back in 2002. The cameras will be looking for his dad in the stands. Ablett is short odds to have a day out, you would think.

12. Sydney v Hawthorn, SCG


Why can't Sydney beat Hawthorn? It's got Lance Franklin miffed. Even on the slide, the Hawks toppled the Swans twice last season, in Rounds 10 and 19, and the year before in Round 19. The total margin for the three games was only 17 points. We think 'Big Buddy' is pretty keen to reverse the trend against his old team as the Swans try and win that first flag since Franklin joined them. It's a great rivalry these two teams share and even with the Hawks looking to some youth, this should be another doozy.

13 Melbourne v Collingwood, MCG

ROUND 12 - Monday June 11 at 3.20 (EST)

How did the Demons lost to Collingwood in the last round last season? Melbourne people would still get angry about it because it cost them a finals spot. Yep, they froze. It will add an extra layer of interest when the two teams meet again on Queen's Birthday in front of another big MCG crowd. Collingwood and Melbourne want to play each other twice every year because they like the way their rivalry is building. Watching the prime young midfielders from both sides go at it will be a fun day. The Freeze MND Slide always provides some laughs before the game, too. What an amazing cause Neale Daniher has led.

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