The release of another set of fixtures will mean clubs are this week feverishly scouring their draw to see how their season stacks up against others. This year, byes need to be factored in, with each side having four weeks off throughout the season. An odd number of teams also requires a move away from the traditional home-away-home-away model the league has implemented in years gone by, meaning clubs will spend long stretches on the road, to be repaid with return fixtures. An even fixture makes for a mostly fair draw across the board, but how much value is placed in a barnstorming start, a clean run to the finish line, or home ground advantage when it matters most? Augusta-Margaret River Momentum on the run in to finals will be one of the more valuable commodities when clubs run their eye over the new fixture. For the reigning premiers, it might be hard to find. There is a very real possibility the Hawks go a month without registering a win on the way to finals — should they feature again — so they will be keen to have points in the bank before this part of the season. In the run home they face a strong looking South Bunbury side, have their final bye for the year, and then end the season with a bumper clash against Bunbury at Payne Park. And they play at home just twice in the last seven weeks of the year. On the other hand, they begin the season with favourable back-to-back home games, including a round-one reunion with fellow grand finalists Busselton and an appointment with Carey Park under the lights in Bunbury. Bunbury In a fixture littered with massive games, the Bulldogs will be one of the stories of the year as they look to bounce back from a disappointing finals exit. They start their campaign with the Nani Cup clash with Carey Park away, but have two of their four byes in the first seven weeks of the year. Both derbies against a strengthened South Bunbury are set to be pivotal clashes, with the two sides meeting at Hands Oval in the second last week of the year. Their final-round clash with reigning premiers AMR could be the biggest game of the last weekend, with both likely to feature at upper reaches of the ladder. Busselton This is a nightmare of a start. The first four weeks of the season couldn’t be any more precarious for the Magpies under new coach Daniel Delaney — set to face the four other finalists from 2021 in the first four games of the year. If they reach their round-six bye with three or even two wins, they would have kept their head above water and create a decent platform to build on through May. The grand final replay to open the season away at Gloucester Park is a brilliant SWFL initiative, but is a daunting prospect for a side humbled in last year’s decider. It will of course get easier later on, with Eaton and Harvey Bulls a nice way to finish the year. Carey Park A Nani Cup game at home in the first week of the season is a huge drawcard for the Panthers, with a big Bunbury crowd itching for footy to return set to pack Kelly Park to watch the two traditional rivals. The Panthers faithful will get just one game of league footy at home during a lean run across July and August, with away games against Collie, Busselton and HBL either side of a bye and a home game against the Tigers. It’s a comfortable run home too, if they were to find themselves within reach of finals, with Eaton, Harvey and Donnybrook their final three opponents. They will also play nine games under lights, two more than any other club, after requesting twilight games at Kelly Park. Collie The Eagles have a desirable start to the season, likely to go in as favourites for three of their first four games of the year. It gets harder from then on, with back-to-back games against Bunbury and AMR in rounds five and six compounded by the fact neither of them are in Collie. How teams deal with byes, particularly in close proximity, will be an interesting and unique talking point this season, and the Eagles have two in three weeks at the start of June sandwiching a trip to Brunswick Oval to face the Lions. A trio of away games in the early part of the season are made up for with return fixtures at the Collie Recreation Ground against Carey Park, Bunbury and AMR in July before they finish their campaign with a bye. Donnybrook Life after Jace Cormack, Chris Atthowe and Julian Burgess begins for the Dons with a pair of difficult away games against Collie and HBL. Their first big test comes after round seven, where the next three games see them face Busselton away and then Bunbury and South Bunbury at home before they get some respite with a bye in round 10. The clash with the Tigers at VC Mitchell Park will also be the first time the departing trio return to the club in their new roles at South Bunbury and the second time they meet could be an important clash too, just three weeks out from the start of the season. They finish the year with a date with Carey Park at home, a side likely to be in a similar position come the end of the season. Eaton Boomers The Boomers get hit with both of their first two byes inside the first month of the season, which could make for a tricky opening, but the last year’s wooden-spooners will fancy themselves a chance in both their round-one clash with Harvey and their round-three meeting with Donnybrook. A difficult finish to the season awaits, should they rely on it either to pull themselves off the bottom of the ladder or push towards finals, with a visit from Busselton and a trip to face the Lions to close out the year. Many of the games likely to draw strong crowds to Glen Huon are in the first half of the year, with a lucrative round-one home game and clashes with Bunbury, South Bunbury and HBL all before the Nutrien Ag Carnival break. Harvey-Brunswick-Leschenault A clash with fellow finalists South Bunbury is one of the features of the league’s massive opening round before the Lions face Donnybrook and AMR at home. A nice even spread of games means no overly difficult period of the season for the Lions in their first season under Ryan MacIntyre. They will host the first Harvey derby of the year against the Bulls, wedged in between their two byes. Their run home is then one of the more comfortable in the competition, with Harvey, Carey Park, Collie and Eaton their final four opponents over a five-week stretch. Harvey BullsThe big hurdles come fairly early for the Bulls next season. In a four-week period after their round-three bye they will face Bunbury, South Bunbury at Hands Oval — the same place they drew against them last season — and HBL at Brunswick Oval. It comes at the same time the Bulls began their decline after an impressive start in season 2021. The benefits of three consecutive home games against Carey Park, Busselton and Eaton are well and truly quashed by the return fixtures on the road against the Panthers and Magpies to round out the season. South Bunbury The only thing tougher than South Bunbury’s start is their finish. They open the season with a feature clash against HBL at Hands Oval under Saturday-night lights before travelling to Bovell Park to face Busselton, where they were beaten in the first week of last year’s finals series. To finish the year, they hike down the highway to face the reigning premiers and then the final derby clash of the year against Bunbury at Hands Oval and a last-round bye.