St Kilda have emerged in a two-way battle with the Western Bulldogs to feature in Good Friday football next season, with North Melbourne virtually assured of hosting the stand alone game for the second year running.
The AFL has declared no two clubs are guaranteed to share the new holiday game on a regular rivalry basis.
The league has considered fresh proposals from the Saints, the Bulldogs and a third Etihad co-tenant Carlton to take on the Kangaroos on Good Friday, 2018, which falls during the second round of next season.
The Good Friday decision looms as the co-tenants at Etihad Stadium remain locked in dispute with the AFL for a better deal next year. The majority of the Etihad clubs are close to resolving significantly better deals with head office.
But they are disappointed that the league is trying to strip them of equalisation funding from central revenue as a result.
Fairfax Media understands club chairmen Peter Summers (St Kilda), Ben Buckley (North) and Peter Gordon (the Bulldogs) have met this week to review their grievances and update their strategies in what has proved a protracted process.
All three Etihad clubs believe the AFL failed to address the inequities over close to two decades forced upon them by the costly stadium deal.
North CEO Carl Dilena likened the AFL manoeuvre as "giving with one hand and taking away with the other".
He said his club was satisfied it had achieved a reasonable result in the new stadium deal but added "there has been some claw back elsewhere and that's not sitting all that comfortably with the clubs".
North, which fought for more than two decades to play Good Friday football, looks certain to be rewarded for its dedication to making the controversial fixture a success last year.
Said club chairman Ben Buckley on Friday: "I'm pretty sure we should be a lock for Good Friday. We'd be disappointed if we weren't. It's been a major focus of our fixture requests.
"We've been told we're no guarantee to continue with hosting it every year but we'd be astounded given all the work we've put in if we missed out next year."
St Kilda was disappointed at being denied Good Friday last year and more recently at being forced to wait until 2020 to form an AFLW team.
The club has made a strong submission to be rotated into the twilight game to be played next year on March 30 after receiving the green light from the AFL Commission to be included again in the league calendar.
In other fixture highlights it has also emerged:
??? Collingwood have requested but not yet assured to open their season against Melbourne at the MCG so the two clubs can play each other twice in the season and in future alternate hosting the Queen's Birthday Holiday clash.
??? Essendon ??? which is involved in the Anzac Day game, the Dreamtime game and now, with Geelong, in the Country Game ??? have asked to again open their season against Hawthorn in round one at the MCG and evolve that clash into a regular fixture against their old rivals.
??? Former Blue Bryce Gibbs looks certain to take on his old side at the Adelaide Oval next season marking Carlton's first clash against the Crows at that stadium.
??? Melbourne in partnership with Breast Cancer Network Australia will again host the "Field of Women" game at the MCG with the AFL and BCNA looking to attract 15,000 supporters to form another "Pink Lady" across the ground potentially in early May the week before Mother's Day.
??? West Coast will launch the new Perth Stadium in March, with Fremantle's AFLW team to play its first match there in February.
??? Gold Coast, which will be funded to the tune of $2.4 million from the Queensland Government for its forced removal from Metricon Stadium until round 11, remain in the box seat to sell a home game to the Dockers in a departure from AFL policy forced by the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Richmond will host the season opener and unfurl the premiership flag against Carlton on Thursday, March 22 and will play as the "away" club against Melbourne on Anzac Eve ??? which falls on a Tuesday in 2018 ??? and against Essendon in the Dreamtime clash also at the MCG in May.
The Tigers boasted the AFL's biggest attendances of 2017, averaging just under 61,000 for its home games. The reigning premiers, who were stripped of Friday night games over the past season, have pushed for at least one extra Thursday night clash next year and a package of games on Friday nights.
The 2018 grand final has been scheduled for September 29 but no decision has been reached on whether the big game will be played later in the day and completed at night.
Clubs will get a clear idea of their 2018 schedules next week with the AFL to release next season's fixture on Tuesday, October 31.
But despite the clubs' new financial year starting on November 1, the Etihad Stadium tenants and, in particular, St Kilda, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, seem highly unlikely to have resolved their differences with the AFL by then.