Updated: Mar 17, 2021
The long wait is nearly over as football returns tomorrow (18 March), when reigning Premiers Richmond take on Carlton under the lights at the MCG (7.25pm).
The Tigers, who defeated Geelong in last year’s final, have been installed as favourites by the bookmakers and will be chasing their third flag in a row for the first time in their 136-year history.
Damien Hardwick’s side are definitely the side to beat, having won the ultimate prize in three of the last four seasons, but there will be plenty of teams proving very strong competition in what will be a fascinating contest.
Last year’s runners-up Geelong are seen as one of those, especially having recruited well in the summer with the arrivals of Jeremy Cameron, Isaac Smith and Shaun Higgins. The forward partnership of Tom Hawkins and Cameron, in particular, is a potentially very exciting one for Cats’ supporters.
Port Adelaide, 2020 minor premiers, didn’t do a lot wrong and are expected to have a big say in the business end of the season; they bolstered their squad with the incoming Aliir Aliir and Orazio Fantasia.
Brisbane have shown rapid improvement under coach Chris Fagan, playing an exciting brand that brought crowds back to the Gabba before the pandemic, and they will be looking to go one better than a preliminary final this time out.
West Coast, formidable at their Optus Stadium home, and the Western Bulldogs, who arguably had the best trade period out of all 18 sides, will be confident of giving it a real crack come September.
If you want to hear what the coach of your side had to say, ahead of the new season, check out the fantastic afl.com.au ‘Your Coach’ podcast series.
Rules changes for 2021
- Quarter lengths have reverted back to the normal 20 minutes, plus time-on, having been reduced to 16 minutes, plus time-on, for the 2020 season only.
- The number of interchanges has been reduced from 90 down to 75.
- A new man on the mark rule has been introduced in order to speed up ball movement. The defending player won’t be able to move, laterally on the mark, and will be forced stand still. Any infringement before ‘play on’ is called by the umpire will result in a 50m penalty.
- Following a behind, the player on the mark defending the kick-in will be required to be 15m back from the goalsquare (increase of 5m).
- The AFL has introduced, at the last minute following a lot of discussion, a medical substitute for all games this season. All clubs will be able use 23 players for each game instead of the regular 22; however, that extra 23rd player will only be able to take the field after club doctors have assessed an injured or concussed player as ‘medically unfit’ to continue in the match.
Format of the season
The AFL season will consist of a 23-round regular campaign (referred to as “home-and-away”) during which each side will play 22 matches and have a ‘bye’, at some stage, around the mid-way point. The team that finishes top of the ladder is awarded the “minor premiership”. The top eight teams then play off in a four-round finals series.
How the finals work
The top four teams in the eight receive the “double chance” when they play in week-one qualifying finals. The winners receive a bye to the third week while the losers will still remain in the finals and will play a semi-final the following week.
The bottom four of the eight-play knock-out games – only the winners survive and advance in the tournament. Home advantage goes to the team with the higher ladder position in the first two weeks through to the Preliminary Final in the third week.
In the third week, the winners of the semi-finals from week two play the winners of the qualifying finals from the first week. The winners of those matches head to the Grand Final which will be played on Saturday 25 September (2.30 pm) at the MCG.
- Week 1 – Qualifying/Elimination finals (3/4/5 September)
- Week 2 – Semi-finals (10/11 September)
- Week 3 – Preliminary finals (17/18 September)
- Week 4 – Grand final (25 September)
Colours: Navy Blue, Red & Gold
Coach: Matthew Nicks
Captain: Rory Sloane
Colours: Maroon, Blue & Gold
Coach: Chris Fagan
Captain: Dayne Zorko
Colours: Navy Blue
Coach: Chris Teague
Captain(s): Patrick Cripps & Sam Docherty
Colours: Black & White
Coach: Nathan Buckley
Captain(s): Scott Pendlebury
Colours: Red & Black
Coach: Ben Rutten
Captain: Dyson Heppell
Colours: Purple & White
Coach: Justin Longmuir
Captain: Nat Fyfe
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Colours: White & Navy Blue
Coach: Chris Scott
Captain: Joel Selwood
Colours: Red, Gold & Blue
Coach: Stewart Dew
Captain(s): David Swallow & Jarrod Witts
Greater Western Sydney (GWS)
Colours: Orange, Charcoal & White
Coach: Leon Cameron
Captain: Stephen Coniglio
Colours: Brown & Gold
Coach: Alastair Clarkson
Captain: Ben McEvoy
Colours: Red & Blue
Coach: Simon Goodwin
Captain: Max Gawn
Colours: Royal Blue & White
Coach: David Noble
Captain: Jack Ziebell
Colours: Black, White, Teal & Silver
Coach: Ken Hinkley
Captain: Tom Jonas
Colours: Yellow & Black
Coach: Damien Hardwick
Captain: Trent Cotchin
Colours: Red, White & Black
Coach: Brett Ratten
Captain(s): Jarryn Geary & Jack Steele
Colours: Red & White
Coach: John Longmire
Captain(s): Josh Kennedy, Dane Rampe & Luke Parker
Colours: Royal Blue & Gold
Coach: Adam Simpson
Captain(s): Luke Shuey
Colours: Red, White & Blue
Coach: Luke Beveridge
Captain(s): Marcus Bontempelli
Odds to win the Grand Final
Richmond $4.50, Geelong $5.50, Brisbane $7, Port Adelaide $7, West Coast $9, Western Bulldogs $10, St Kilda $12, Collingwood $15, Melbourne $21, Carlton $23, GWS $23, Fremantle $41, Gold Coast $51, Hawthorn $51, Sydney $51, Essendon $67, Adelaide $101, North Melbourne $151 (Source: Sportsbet)
- Stay up to date with all the latest news via the afl.com.au website.
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