Crowds around the country will finally be able to return to the footy, following two very Covid affected years, when the new AFL season gets under this coming Wednesday (16 March) evening.
The curtain raiser, set to attract a crowd of around 80,000 at the MCG, will be a re-run of the 2021 Grand Final with reigning Premiers Melbourne taking on the Western Bulldogs.
The Demons, who claimed their first flag in 57 years to end the longest active premiership drought, have been installed as the bookies’ favourites to go back-to-back. If they can re-produce that same form, it would be hard to see them not achieving something the club last did back in the 1950s.
However, in what is expected to be a hotly contested season, there are plenty of other very strong contenders all vying for the ultimate prize, including last year’s beaten finalists the Doggies.
Luke Beveridge’s side put together an amazing finals series that saw three victories in three different states, during the pandemic, before falling just short in the showpiece event over in Perth, Western Australia.
Although they were knocked out in straight sets last term, the Brisbane Lions will have learnt from that experience and look set to have another crack. Likewise, 2020 Minor Premiers Port Adelaide, a side that have agonisingly suffered Prelim defeats in their last two campaigns, will be wanting to go one further this time around.
A very experienced Geelong outfit have qualified for finals in 14 out of the last 15 seasons and are almost certainties to be there once again.
Despite not making the eight last year, write off Richmond at your peril; winners in 2017, 2019 and 2020, the Tigers endured a really tough run with injures but with everyone now returning are likely to have a big say with plenty of the pundits bullish about their chances.
‘Buddy’ to reach the 1,000 goal milestone
It is not a case of ‘if’ but simply ‘when’ Sydney forward Lane Franklin (pictured below) scores his 1,000 AFL goal. The 35 year-old forward needs just five more majors to complete this amazing feat, which is certain to attract a lot of well-deserved attention. It has only ever been achieved by five other players in history of the game – Tony Lockett, Gordon Coventry, Jason Dunstall, Doug Wade and Gary Ablett Sr.Embed from Getty Images
Rules changes for 2022
• All players and staff are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
• Clubs will be able to call on up to 20 extra players from their contingency list if they have less than 28-listed AFL players to choose from due to COVID-19 circumstances, injuries and general unavailability.
This year will see tighter interpretations to already existing rules as follows:
• Umpires will be less lenient towards players who deliberately delay the play. A free-kick or 50-metre penalty will be awarded.
• Umpires will no longer give a warning to players who deliberately engage in time wasting and a free-kick will be awarded.
• Umpires will be less lenient towards players who have had prior opportunity and do not immediately and correctly dispose of the Football when they are legally tackled.
• A free-kick will be awarded against a player who ducks their head prior to being legally tackled and does not immediately and correctly dispose of the football. Umpire cues for prior opportunity includes: evading, fending, ducking or has a prior option.
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 24 September at the MCG.
• Week 1 – Qualifying/Elimination finals (2/3/4 September)
• Week 2 – Semi-finals (9/10 September)
• Week 3 – Preliminary finals (16/17 September)
• Week 4 – Grand final (24 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: Michael Voss
Captain(s): Patrick Cripps
Colours: Black & White
Coach: Craig McRae
Captain(s): Scott Pendlebury
Colours: Red & Black
Coach: Ben Rutten
Captain: Dyson Heppell
Colours: Purple & White
Coach: Justin Longmuir
Captain: Nat Fyfe
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, Toby Greene & Josh Kelly
Colours: Brown & Gold
Coach: Sam Mitchell
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: Dylan Grimes & Toby Nankervis
Colours: Red, White & Black
Coach: Brett Ratten
Captain(s): 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
Melbourne $4.50, Western Bulldogs $5.50, Brisbane $7, Port Adelaide $10, Geelong $11, Richmond $11, Sydney $13, Greater Western Sydney $15, Essendon $16, St.Kilda $22, Carlton $25, Fremantle $30, West Coast $40, Collingwood $60, Adelaide $66, Hawthorn $66, North Melbourne $80, Gold Coast $100
(Source: Sportsbet/Bet 365)