Fremantle will play West Coast and Hawthorn in round 1 of the revised NAB Cup at Patersons Stadium on Sunday 13 February, 2011.

AFL Chief Operating Officer Gillon McLachlan today announced the six divisions for round one of the revised 2011 competition, where the AFL’s 16 clubs, plus newcomers Gold Coast and Team GWS, will be placed in six pools.

Each club will play two matches in their pool against the other two sides, with all round one matches being shortened games, comprising two 20-minute halves across a three-hour window for the three matches.

Fremantle Dockers chief executive officer Steve Rosich said the club was satisfied with its 2011 NAB Cup draw.

“We are also pleased that our request to the AFL to play the new pre-season format at home has eventuated,” he said.

“It is a new and innovative format and will provide a unique challenge for our coaching staff to manage the players’ game time over two matches on the same day.”

Fremantle members will be advised in due course about priority ticketing procedures for the three-game event on Sunday 13 February, which is likely to be a sell-out.

Fremantle is scheduled to play Hawthorn at 5.50pm and West Coast at 6.55pm, with the Hawks and Eagles’ game preceding those two matches at 4.45pm.

The other round 1 pool games are:
• Adelaide, Port Adelaide and Melbourne at AAMI Stadium, Friday 11 February.
• Collingwood, Carlton and Richmond at Etihad Stadium, Saturday 12 February.
• Essendon, Brisbane and St Kilda at Etihad Stadium, Friday 18 February.
• Sydney, Gold Coast and GWS at Blacktown Olympic Park, Saturday 19 February.
• Geelong, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs at Skilled Stadium, Sunday 20 February.

The introduction of the Gold Coast as the competition’s 17th side from 2011 onwards, had meant the AFL was not able to continue with a traditional four-week straight knockout competition for the NAB Cup.

Under the new format that was announced in May 2010, the six winners of each division will qualify for round 2, along with the two other sides that have the best records among all the other teams, to allow for a traditional quarter-final set up of eight teams, before moving into semi finals and a grand final over a three-week period.

McLachlan said all matches in the NAB Cup would be broadcast by one of the AFL’s partners – Channel Seven, the Ten Network or Fox Sports – with the final to be broadcast by Channel 7 on Friday March 11.

“We are looking forward to seeing how the new format will work for round 1 next year,” he said.

“The shortened format will allow players and teams to adjust their preparation for the season, before playing full-scale matches from week two of the NAB Cup and NAB Challenge competitions, and then beginning the premiership season in late March.

“In round 1, supporters will see their team play twice and, all up, there will be three matches played during a three-hour period.

“We had received a lot of feedback from clubs that three full-scale pre-season matches was the right number for them in terms of their preparation for the premiership season, and this format allows for three matches, along with a first week where players can play one match for 40 minutes, with a light run, or play both games for 80 minutes of football.”

McLachlan said the venues for NAB Challenge matches would be announced later this year but would again include a range of venues outside capital cities to allow people in regional Australia to see AFL players in action.

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