Nine games to decide the eight. Then nine games to decide the flag.
The 2022 AFL season is drawing to a close, with just one round left and 10 teams still in contention for the premiership.
In the final edition of The Run Home for the year, we list every possible finishing position for the contending 10 and make a call on who’ll make it, who’ll miss and where everyone ends up.
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PREDICTED WEEK 1 FINALS
First Qualifying Final (1st hosts 4th): Geelong Cats vs Collingwood at the MCG
First Elimination Final (5th hosts 8th): Fremantle vs Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium
Second Elimination Final (6th hosts 7th): Brisbane Lions vs Richmond at the Gabba
Second Qualifying Final (2nd hosts 3rd): Sydney Swans vs Melbourne at the SCG
PREDICTED FINAL LADDER
1. Geelong Cats (18-4)
2. Sydney Swans (16-6)
3. Melbourne (16-6)
4. Collingwood (16-6)
5. Fremantle (15-6-1)
6. Brisbane Lions (15-7)
7. Richmond (13-8-1)
8. Western Bulldogs (12-10)
9. Carlton (12-10)
10. St Kilda (11-11)
11. Port Adelaide (10-12)
12. Gold Coast Suns (10-12)
13. Hawthorn (8-14)
14. Adelaide Crows (8-14)
15. Essendon (7-15)
16. GWS Giants (6-16)
17. West Coast Eagles (2-20)
18. North Melbourne (2-20)
Note: We’re analysing the final round and every team as if no draws can or will happen… this is already complicated enough. All times AEST.
How Round 23 will play out chronologically
– Friday night: The Brisbane v Melbourne winner will make the top four and the loser will almost certainly host an elimination final, with exact seeding to be determined on Sunday;
– Saturday afternoon: Fremantle can keep its top four hopes alive by beating GWS in Canberra, needing to wait until the Swans play to find out if they make it;
– Saturday twilight: Geelong celebrates the minor premiership at home against West Coast;
– Saturday night: Richmond can lock up seventh spot by beating Essendon;
– Sunday early: The Western Bulldogs must beat Hawthorn down in Launceston to keep the pressure on Carlton;
– Sunday afternoon: If the Bulldogs win by a couple of goals or more, Carlton must beat Collingwood to play finals, while the Magpies will earn a top-four spot with a victory;
– Sunday twilight: Depending on earlier results, Sydney may need to win to seal a top-four or top-two spot (perhaps with a percentage race like last year’s Brisbane-West Coast game) while St Kilda may mathematically be fighting for the last spot in the eight.
1. GEELONG CATS (17-4, 139.7%)
Round 23 game: West Coast Eagles at GMHBA Stadium, Saturday 4:35pm
Win or Lose: Finish 1st
Analysis: The Cats won the minor premiership by beating Gold Coast. Well, mathematically they sealed it when Collingwood lost to Sydney on Sunday, but it was an effective certainty on Saturday night.
Prediction: Finish 1st, ‘hosting’ Collingwood in a qualifying final at the MCG
2. SYDNEY SWANS (15-6, 128.3%)
Round 23 game: St Kilda at Marvel Stadium, Sunday 4:40pm
Win: Finish 2nd if they’re ahead of the Brisbane-Melbourne winner on percentage, 3rd if they’re behind them
Lose: Finish 3rd if Brisbane loses to Melbourne, Collingwood loses to Carlton and Fremantle loses to GWS, 4th if Melbourne, Collingwood and Fremantle lose, 5th if one of Collingwood and Fremantle wins, 6th if both Collingwood and Fremantle win [being ahead of the Brisbane-Melbourne loser dependent on percentage]
Analysis: Playing the final home and away game of the season, the Swans will know what’s ahead of them going into the clash with St Kilda. They’ll almost certainly need to win to make the top four, though as you can see above there are scenarios that favour them due to their strong percentage. Quite simply, if they beat the Saints by as much as they should, they’ll host a qualifying final – their first at the SCG since 1998, given an AFL finals ticketing graphic released last week didn’t reference Stadium Australia. If they lose it’s most likely they slide out of the top four, potentially all the way down to sixth.
Prediction: Finish 2nd, hosting Melbourne in a qualifying final at the SCG
3. MELBOURNE (15-6, 127.7%)
Round 23 game: Brisbane Lions at the Gabba, Friday 7:50pm
Win: Finish 2nd if Sydney loses to St Kilda OR if they’re ahead of a victorious Sydney on percentage, 3rd if Sydney beats St Kilda and is ahead on percentage
Lose: Finish 3rd if Sydney loses to St Kilda, Fremantle loses to GWS and Collingwood loses to Carlton, 4th if two of them lose, 5th if one of them lose, 6th if none of them lose [being ahead of Sydney dependent on percentage]
Analysis: The scenario for the Demons and Lions is almost identical, with the reigning premiers holding a percentage advantage that makes finishing second easier. Friday night’s winner will play in the 2 v 3 qualifying final – and it’d help if they could win comfortably to build their percentage and stay ahead of the Swans, who’ll know how much they need to beat St Kilda by to finish second. The loser will host an elimination final unless a couple of upsets happen, most likely involving Fremantle and Collingwood, so they’re not totally out of the top four race if they lose on Friday night.
Prediction: Finish 3rd, facing Sydney in a qualifying final at the SCG
4. BRISBANE LIONS (15-6, 124.1%)
Round 23 game: Melbourne at the Gabba, Friday 7:50pm
Win: Finish 2nd if Sydney loses to St Kilda OR if they pass a victorious Sydney on percentage, 3rd if Sydney beats St Kilda and stays ahead on percentage
Lose: Finish 3rd if Sydney loses to St Kilda by heaps, Fremantle loses to GWS and Collingwood loses to Carlton, 4th if two of them lose, 5th if one of them lose, 6th if none of them lose [being ahead of Sydney dependent on percentage]
Analysis: They got the four points in a game seemingly neither side wanted to win on Friday night, and now the Lions face a win-and-you’re-in scenario for the top four. Beat Melbourne on Friday night and they’ll know they have the double chance, playing off in the 2 v 3 qualifying final; whether and who they’re hosting will be determined by the Swans’ result on Sunday. Lose to Melbourne and they’re almost certainly hosting an elimination final, unless Fremantle and Collingwood both lose too (it’s possible to pass Sydney on percentage if they both lose, but very unlikely).
Prediction: Finish 6th, hosting Richmond in an elimination final at the Gabba
5. COLLINGWOOD (15-6, 104.4%)
Round 23 game: Carlton at the MCG, Sunday 3:20pm
Win: Finish 3rd if Sydney loses to St Kilda, 4th if Sydney beats St Kilda
Lose: Finish 5th if Fremantle loses to GWS, 6th if Fremantle beats GWS
Analysis: This has to be the biggest Magpies-Blues game since… well, they haven’t played in the finals since 1988, so since then? After their winning streak was snapped by the Swans, the Magpies’ situation is pretty simple. Beat Carlton and they return to the top four, replacing the Brisbane-Melbourne loser, with their seeding determined by the St Kilda-Sydney result. Lose to Carlton and they host an elimination final, with their seeding determined by the GWS-Fremantle result. This’d be a good time to start a new streak.
Prediction: Finish 4th, facing Geelong in a qualifying final at the MCG
6. FREMANTLE (14-6-1, 116.4%)
Round 23 game: GWS Giants at Manuka Oval, Saturday 1:45pm
Win: Finish 3rd if Sydney loses to St Kilda and Collingwood loses to Carlton, 4th if one of them lose, 5th if neither lose
Lose: Finish 6th
Analysis: Their top four hopes are alive, but they’re not in control. As long as the Dockers take care of business in the nation’s capital next Saturday, they’ll pass one of the teams above them on the ladder… it’s just that they need to pass two. For that, they need Collingwood or Sydney to cop an upset (por que no los dos?). That would see Justin Longmuir’s men earning the double chance ahead of both the Brisbane-Melbourne loser and the side upset on Sunday. If the Dockers lose, well, they’re just stuck where they are now.
Prediction: Finish 5th, hosting Western Bulldogs in an elimination final at Optus Stadium
7. RICHMOND (12-8-1, 118.7%)
Round 23 game: Essendon at the MCG, Saturday 7:25pm
Win: Finish 7th
Lose: Finish 8th if Carlton beats Collingwood, otherwise 7th
Analysis: Locked into the eight after their thumping win over Hawthorn on Sunday, the Tigers will play an away elimination final, with the only question being whether they finish 7th or 8th. Look above and you quickly realise there are no good options for the opponent – it’s either an interstate trip, the reigning premiers or Collingwood in a game that might break the MCG. And either way, they’ll be a serious threat to win it.
Prediction: Finish 7th, away to Brisbane in an elimination final at the Gabba
8. CARLTON (12-9, 108.8%)
Round 23 game: Collingwood at the MCG, Sunday 3:20pm
Win: Finish 7th if Essendon beats Richmond, otherwise 8th
Lose: Finish 8th if Western Bulldogs lose to Hawthorn OR beat Hawthorn but can’t make up roughly 2 goals of percentage, otherwise miss finals
Analysis: 11 seconds away from ending a nine-year finals drought, instead Blues fans will be waiting until Sunday evening to learn their team’s fate. They could learn it earlier – if the Bulldogs lose to Hawthorn down in Launceston, as they did last year when trying to lock up a top-four spot, Carlton’s spot in September will be sealed during the second quarter of their clash with Collingwood. But if the Bulldogs win, then it gets really exciting. If the Dogs win by very little there’s a chance the Blues can lose a thriller and hold onto eighth. But if the Dogs win by more than a couple of goals, the Blues must beat the old enemy to hold onto their spot in the eight. They risk becoming the first team to sit in the finals spots after every round except the last one since 1977’s Carlton.
Prediction: Miss finals
9. WESTERN BULLDOGS (11-10, 107.9%)
Round 23 game: Hawthorn at UTAS Stadium, Sunday 1:10pm
Win: Finish 8th if Carlton loses to Collingwood and they make up roughly 2 goals of percentage, otherwise miss finals
Lose: Miss finals
Analysis: They looked nothing like a finalist against the Giants, but they got through by the skin of their teeth and watched Carlton lose later that night. Tick and tick. It should be simple enough; if the Bulldogs win and the Blues lose next week, Luke Beveridge’s men will take Carlton’s spot in the eight… unless both games are super duper close. The percentage gap is small, but not so small that there aren’t scenarios where the Blues lose by so little, and the Dogs win by so little, that the Blues hold their spot. You’d need two games decided by less than a kick but it can happen. (Next Sunday is gonna be SO fun.)
Prediction: Finish 8th, away to Fremantle in an elimination final at Optus Stadium
10. ST KILDA (11-10, 100.1%)
Round 23 game: Sydney Swans at Marvel Stadium, Sunday 4:40pm
Win: Finish 8th if Carlton loses to Collingwood, Western Bulldogs lose to Hawthorn and they make up roughly 20 goals of percentage, otherwise miss finals
Lose: Miss finals
Analysis: On the plus side, the Saints will go into their Round 23 game mathematically alive in the finals race. But you know what that word ‘mathematically’ means in this context. They need to make up over 100 points of margin to pass Carlton and/or the Bulldogs on percentage – so for example the Saints winning by 10 goals AND the Blues/Bulldogs losing by 10 goals. As you may know if you’ve followed a finals race before, the purely mathematical chance never gets up.
Prediction: Miss finals
Adelaide, Essendon, Gold Coast, GWS, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and West Coast cannot qualify for the finals.