REIGNING premier Hawthorn will face a tough start to 2016, facing six of this year’s finalists in the first nine rounds.
The Hawks will begin their pursuit of a fourth consecutive premiership with a blockbuster Easter Monday clash against fierce rivals Geelong Cats at the MCG.
The Cats, boasted by a bevy of big-name off-season recruits, are expected to challenge for finals after missing the mark in 2015.
In Round 2, the Hawks host West Coast Eagles at the MCG in a grand final rematch, before taking on former Hawk Matthew Suckling and the Western Bulldogs on their home turf in Round 3.
The Hawks will also meet fellow 2015 finalists Adelaide Crows (Round 5, MCG), Richmond (MCG, Round 7), Fremantle (Aurora Stadium, Round 8) and Sydney Swans (SCG, Round 9) in the first two months of the season.
Overall, the Hawks will tackle eight six-day breaks in 2016 and travel interstate on nine occasions (including four home matches at Launceston’s Aurora Stadium).
In total, the Hawks play 13 matches in Victoria (10 at the MCG, three at Etihad Stadium), four in Tasmania, two in New South Wales, one in Queensland, one in South Australia and one in Western Australia.
The Hawks will face four of last year’s finalists – grand finalist West Coast Eagles, preliminary finalist North Melbourne, Sydney Swans and Richmond – twice.
New Hawk Jack Fitzpatrick will have two chances to tackle his former side, Melbourne, with the Hawks facing off against the Demons twice in a home-and-away season for the first time since 2011.
After a challenging start, the Hawks’ fixture doesn’t get any easier in the middle of the season, with a back-to-back road trip following the Round 15 bye.
Consecutive Thursday night games will see the Hawks take on Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval in Round 16, followed by Sydney Swans at the SCG in Round 17.
A return to the MCG follows a week later, in another blockbuster clash against premiership aspirant Richmond.
The Hawks run into the finals also looms as a challenge for Alastair Clarkson and his men, with matches against North Melbourne, West Coast Eagles and Collingwood rounding out the home-and-away season.