West Coast and Fremantle will be spared an extra pre-season hitout against each other this year.

The AFL said it was “extremely unlikely” the pair would be fixtured to meet for a second time during the NAB Cup series.

The WA rivals were asked to face off twice during last year’s pre-season once in the triangular 40-minute matches in February at Patersons Stadium, before clashing at Fremantle Oval in March.

The Eagles and Dockers will meet in a 40-minute match in three weeks’ time when they host Essendon in the triangular NAB Cup opener at Patersons on February 19.

But an AFL spokesman said a pre-season derby double-up was not on the cards this year.

“It’s extremely unlikely sides would play twice in the pre-season,” he said.

Under the revamped system for this year’s NAB Cup, the first three rounds have already been fixtured.

A ladder will run during the phase and the top two teams after Round 3 will play off in the Grand Final, with the remaining 16 clubs to meet in practice matches on the same weekend.

The return to three derbies this season will be welcomed by most, who believe too many meaningless derbies are played.

It mean the Eagles will probably travel in the final week of the NAB Cup, before flying east to play the Western Bulldogs in Round 1 of the premiership season.

West Coast spent all of last year’s pre-season at home as it laid the platform for its surge up the ladder, and has been fixtured to stay at home for the first three rounds of the competition this year.

Fremantle will travel to South Australia to play Port Adelaide in Round 3 of the NAB Cup, meaning the Dockers will return home on the final weekend and the Eagles will have to hit the road.

The WA teams would meet for a second time in the pre-season if both advanced to the NAB Cup Grand Final, however the Eagles and Dockers have poor pre-season records.

West Coast has made the pre-season Grand Final just once, in 2005, and coach John Worsfold and the club hierarchy do not view winning the competition as a priority.

Fremantle has never qualified for the play-off, although new coach Ross Lyon did take St Kilda to the NAB Cup title in 2008 and to the pre-season decider in 2010.

After playing Essendon and West Coast in shortened matches in Round 1, the Dockers will host Richmond at Patersons Stadium before travelling to Victor Harbor in SA to play the Power.

Following the triangular series, the Eagles will host Port Adelaide in Mandurah and St Kilda at Patersons Stadium.

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