It will be take two for Essendon when the Bombers play Richmond in the second round of next year’s NAB Cup in Wangaratta in early March.
Essendon was scheduled to play St Kilda in the major provincial city during this year’s pre-season series but the clash was abandoned when the Dons’ flight had to be turned around because of bad weather. St Kilda, which had already arrived, were forced to play an intra-club game instead.
The Bombers’ decision to fly the 240 kilometres instead of make a two-hour road trip incurred the wrath of the locals, who had been preparing for the clash for months, the abandonment costing the council and local clubs $173,000, a sum repaid by the AFL and Essendon.
Essendon’s 2013 campaign begins in the first of six triple-headers, the Bombers taking on Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Friday 15 February. The abbreviated games will occupy the first fortnight of the pre-season series, which concludes on the weekend of 15-16 March.
Next year’s NAB Cup includes games in interstate regional centres Renmark (South Australia) and Northam (Western Australia), along with games in Alice Springs and Townsville. Melbourne will also play St Kilda in round three at the Demons’ off-season training base of Casey Fields in Cranbourne.
"In rounds two and three, we will mix matches across both regional venues and our major AFL venues, so that we continue to promote our game into areas that don't normally host AFL football,’’ said AFL general manager of scheduling Simon Lethlean.