Geelong and Essendon to clash at QEO in March

STAR POWER: Geelong's 2016 Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield is headed to Bendigo on March 12, next year, to play Essendon at the QEO. The game will be the final pre-season hit-out for both clubs. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

STAR POWER: Geelong's 2016 Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield is headed to Bendigo on March 12, next year, to play Essendon at the QEO. The game will be the final pre-season hit-out for both clubs. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

AFL pre-season football is returning to the Queen Elizabeth Oval next March, with Geelong to take on Essendon.

The Sunday, March 12, match will be the final pre-season hit-out for both clubs, meaning both are likely to be close to full strength given it will be a round one dress rehearsal.

The game will be played as a twilight clash from 4.10pm under the banner of the AFL’s newly-named JLT Community Series.

“After missing out on a game earlier this year, it’s fantastic we get football of the highest level back in Bendigo in 2017,” AFL Central Victoria’s Carol Cathcart said on Wednesday.

“It’s great for football supporters and the community in general.”

There will be plenty of attention on Essendon during the pre-season matches given the club has 10 players on its list returning to the AFL field next year after serving doping bans in 2016.

“The game in Bendigo is going to be an early opportunity for people to see Essendon back at full strength, so we’d expect to get a big crowd and for it to be a great game,” Cathcart said.

“Bendigo and the region is such a good supporter of football, and with two big Victorian clubs playing, we’ll be expecting a really big crowd.”

The Geelong squad features two former Bendigo players in brothers Joel and Scott Selwood, while Essendon last month selected Kobe Mutch from the Bendigo Pioneers in the National Draft.

Next year won’t be the first time Essendon and Geelong have met at the QEO in an AFL pre-season game.

They also played against each other in Bendigo in the pre-season of 2005 in a Friday night game best remembered for Essendon’s Matthew Lloyd breaking his arm in a 14.6 (90) to 12.7 (79) defeat to the Cats in front of a crowd of 14,000 people.

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