The AFL has announced a landmark State of Origin match to raise funds for the Australian bushfire disaster in addition to a monster donation to support relief efforts.
Victoria will play an All Stars line-up on Friday February 28, with money raised to boost a Community Relief Fund set up by the AFL to help rebuild football facilities ripped apart by the national crisis.
Richmond premiership coach Damien Hardwick will lead the Victorians and Sydney counterpart John Longmire will coach the All Stars in the match to be staged at Marvel Stadium.
The AFL ($1.35m) – in association with the clubs ($900,000) and AFL Players Association ($250,000) – have committed a $2.5million donation.
A total of $1m will provide immediate emergency assistance through the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery fund. An additional $1.5m will kickstart the Community Relief Fund for grassroots facilities.
The match – to be played during the second weekend of the pre-season March Community Series – will see players selected in a process still to be determined.
There will be a maximum of three players per AFL club eligible to take part in the match to ensure minimal disruption to club's pre-season plans just 20 days before round one.
Essendon's trip to face West Coast at Lathlain Park in the Marsh Series – also fixtured for February 28 – has been moved to the day before.
The AFLW match between Collingwood and Melbourne scheduled for Friday February 28 at Victoria Park will now be played at Marvel Stadium to create a double header.
It is the first game of its kind since the 2008 Hall of Fame Tribute Match that saw Victoria beat the Dream Team by 17 points in front of a 69,294 fans at the MCG.