THE Gunnedah Bulldogs will begin their 2019 AFL North West season with a clash against the Tamworth Roos after the season's fixture was released this week.
Cross-town rivals the Tamworth Swans will kick off their season on April 27 with an away game against the Narrabri Eagles, while reigning premiers the Inverell Saints will meet the Moree Suns.
The New England Nomads will have a bye in round one.
The Roos will have to wait until round seven for their first Billy Holder Cup match against the Swans, with the return game scheduled for round 14.
Meanwhile, 2018 runners up Gunnedah will have to wait until round six for their first crack at reigning premiers Inverell.
With 14 rounds and one general bye weekend, this season's fixture is a shortened format compared to the 2018 season.
AFL North West community football manager Paul Taylor said the new-look fixture was supported by the majority of the competing clubs.
"There really was a number of factors that contributed to the 12-round home and away season fixture," Taylor told the Namoi Valley Independent.
"With the introduction of under-14 football to compliment the under-17, women's and men's competitions, a shortened fixture was desirable.
"For example, if a club has a team competing in all four grades it can be quite a long day of football if you're there from start to finish, especially if you've had to travel
"So from that standpoint it makes sense and at the end of the day it was passed by the clubs five votes to two"
Taylor said the competition's later start date would also have benefits to players working in the agriculture industry.
"The last few years we have heard from some clubs that due to the cotton harvest going into early April it is difficult to field a team to play," he said.
"So by shortening the season and starting later as opposed to finishing earlier we should be able to help elevate those problems."
In a break from tradition, season 2019 will be without the annual representative clash between AFL North West and AFL North Coast.
"The decision to put men's representative football on the back-burner has come from North Coast," Taylor said.
"For their clubs it was no longer financially feasible and therefore it was decided to give it a miss this year.
"However, we are still really hopeful of having a women's representative match at some stage during the season."
Each team will play each other twice during the home and away season with the 2019 grand final scheduled for Saturday August 24.