Essendon will open its 2021 VFL season against the Brisbane Lions in Queensland on April 17, with the AFL today releasing the fixture for the first two rounds.

The Bombers will fly north for the Saturday afternoon fixture, before returning to Melbourne for round two to face Collingwood at Victoria Park on the eve of the Anzac Day clash.

The match-ups for rounds three to 19 have also been revealed, with dates, times and venues yet to be announced.

This year's VFL competition has been expanded to feature 22 clubs from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria in a 16-game season across 19 rounds, with a top-eight finals structure commencing on August 28 and the grand final held on the weekend of September 18-19.

The fixture closely aligns with AFL programs given the VFL involvement of AFL-listed players from 14 AFL clubs and the shared resources across all AFL clubs. The release of rounds one and two aligns with the current release of the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season fixture and is central to the fixturing of the season.

The fixture will also deliver fans a blockbuster schedule of matches and allow maximised broadcast of the game with the VFL to enter the homes of more fans across more channels in 2021.

The Bombers will hold a practice match against Box Hill from 11am at the NEC Hangar on Saturday, with hitouts against Footscray (12:30pm, Saturday, March 27, NEC Hangar), Sandringham (11am, Saturday, April 3, NEC Hangar) and Frankston (6pm, Friday, April 9, NEC Hangar) to follow before round one.

Check out the Bombers' 2021 VFL fixture below.

ROUND OPPONENT TIME/DATE (all times local) VENUE
1 Brisbane Lions 1:30pm, Saturday, April 17 Southpines Sporting Complex
2 Collingwood 2pm, Saturday, April 24 Victoria Park
3 Carlton Weekend May 1/2 TBC
4 BYE    
5 Frankston Weekend May 15/16 TBC
6 North Melbourne Weekend May 22/23 TBC
7 Williamstown Weekend May 29/30 TBC
8 Richmond Weekend June 5/6 TBC
9 BYE    
10 Northern Bullants Weekend June 19/20 TBC
11 Casey Demons Weekend June 26/27 TBC
12 Geelong Weekend July 3/4 TBC
13 BYE    
14 North Melbourne Weekend July 17/18 TBC
15 GWS Giants Weekend July 24/25 TBC
16 Sydney Swans Weekend July 31/August 1 TBC
17 Footscray Weekend August 7/8 TBC
18 Gold Coast Suns Weekend August 14/15 TBC
19 Collingwood Weekend August 21/22 TBC