18 teams, one cup. The 2018 AFL Premiership Season is upon us and my body is entirely ready for the triumph and heartbreak that is watching Aussie Rules. Whether you're a dyed in the wool Crowie or an every-now-and-again Giants supporter, you're no doubt ready for a big season (no, not you, North Melbourne fans).
If you're looking to catch every game of the AFL season live and online, then this is the AFL Guide you need.
What Is The AFL?
Obviously, I am sticking to a template we use for every How To Watch guide we put together but if you live in Australia you're very likely aware of the AFL. Australian Football is our national game, where two teams try to take possession of an oval-shaped ball (The Sherrin) and put it through some big sticks at either end of an oval. It's pretty dazzlingly complex but also dazzlingly unique and the 2018 season looks to be one of the most hotly contested for many years - many teams are legitimate contenders to win it all.
For 23 weeks, 18 teams face off for Premiership points. At the end of those 23 weeks, the top eight teams end up in an elimination Finals series and ultimately, two teams remain for the Grand Final.
Last year, my beloved Adelaide Crows faced off against the Richmond Tigers, ultimately falling to them in the Grand Final.
When Is The AFL Premiership Season 2018?
The 2018 AFL Premiership Season officially starts on Thursday March 22, 2018 with reigning Premiers Richmond taking on Carlton at the MCG. The match begins at 7:25pm AEDT.
The rest of the Round One matches follow on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. To keep on top of start times and when your team is playing, the best place to go is the official AFL Fixture.
The Finals series will begin two weeks after the end of the regular season on September 6. The Grand Final will be played at the MCG on September 29.
We'll have How To Watch guides for both those big events closer to their scheduled dates.
How To Watch The AFL Live, Online, Free
Your free to air options are pretty good, considering, but it will depend where you live in Australia. Channel 7 still maintain the rights to the AFL and will have games spread across each weekend, with national broadcasts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday Night. Check your local guides to find out what channel they will appear on. Again, depending on your region they'll appear on Channel 70 or Channel 73. Although that will give you a healthy amount of games, if you follow a particular team, there's really no way to see every single game live without ponying up some cash.
Online for free? You might be out of luck. The 7Plus desktop site doesn't stream the games live online because this agreement belongs elsewhere.
Foxtel Now is definitely an option and one that I - a diehard - routinely go with, living in a different state to the team I follow. If you jump onto the service, you can sign up for a FREE two week trial, but that's obviously not going to cover you for the entire season. However, after the two weeks are up, the cheapest way to stream via Foxtel is to pay for a $10 starter pack and add the $29 sports pack. This will set you back $39 a month. Granted the season runs from March to September, you're looking at around $240 a year - expensive!
However, I recommend this for mega footy heads because the Foxtel Now quality has dramatically improved in the last year and games are, surprisingly, much more watchable than they were last year. You will also get all the analysis, commentary and review shows that comes with the Fox Footy package. If you're into footy, there's not much better than that.
The other option is AFL Live Pass, but I am going to be blunt here - unless you have a Telstra subscription already, it's trash. It costs $4.99 a week, $16.99 a month or $99.99 for a whole season. Admittedly, it is cheaper than the Foxtel option, but, it's still pricey and the coverage is abysmal. Because of the streaming rights, you're limited to a 7-inch video of live games. While that may be all well and good, in say, golf, it's an absolute disaster in a fast-paced, multi-camera sport like AFL footy. I'd pass on this, unless you're happy watching on a tiny screen on your phone or tablet. There's no desktop access.
Expat or living abroad? Well say hello to Watch AFL, the international pass that will grant you access to every game while you're overseas. The other option for overseas guests - if they want to watch 'for free' - would be to invest in a VPN that allows them to set their location to somewhere in Australia (probably Melbourne) and watch through the aforementioned 7Plus desktop site.
Need help with a VPN? We've got you covered with our handy guide.
The subreddit r/AFL is a great community for banter and potentially for updates on the state of play. A good place, with quality memes, too. Usually pretty quick to the news cycle which is also beneficial.
Carn the Crowies!