AFL 2023 Finals preview – the road to the Grand Final

AFL Finales Series 2023

After 24 gruelling rounds in AFL, we now know the eight teams that will battle to be crowned 2023 Premiers.

During September, they will face off, in a finals series, until there are just two remaining. They will then go on to clash on the biggest stage of them all. In the 127th AFL/VFL showpiece event, for the Premiership Cup/Flag.

It has been a wonderful season, so far. With the regular home-and-away campaign producing so many great matches; full of excitement, drama and thrilling action for which the players, coaches, staff and officials of all the clubs deserve so much credit.

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 competition 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 victors of those matches head to the Grand Final which will be played on Saturday 30 September (2.30 pm) at the MCG.

  • Week 1 – Qualifying(QF)/Elimination (EF) finals (7/8/9 September)
    • EF – Thursday 7 September: Collingwood v Melbourne @ MCG (7:20 pm)
    • QF – Friday 8 September: Carlton v Sydney @ MCG (7:50 pm)
    • EF – Saturday 9 September: St.Kilda v GWS @ MCG (3.20 pm)
    • QF – Saturday 9 September: Brisbane v Port Adelaide @ Gabba (7:25 pm)
  • Week 2 – Semi-finals (15/16 September)
  • Week 3 – Preliminary finals (22/23 September)
  • Week 4 – Grand final (30 September)


Collingwood (Ladder Position: 1st)
Nickname: ‘Magpies’
Colours: Black & White
Coach: Craig McRae
Captain(s): Scott Pendlebury

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The 2023 minor premiers and bookies favourites have continued their remarkable progress under coach Craig McCrae having finished 17th only two years ago.

Have been the must-watch team for excitement and close finishes That ability and mentality to come back or hold on, in the latter stages, going to serve them well.

In Nick Daicos (pictured above), who won the AFLCA Best Young Player award, they have a real match winner. The Magpies will be praying that he returns from the hairline fracture in his right knee, which he suffered a month ago, just in time for the start of the finals.

Brisbane (Ladder Position: 2nd)
Nickname: ‘Lions’
Colours: Maroon, Blue & Gold
Coach: Chris Fagan (pictured below)
Captain: Dayne Zorko

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Seen by many as the main challenger. The Lions have a healthy and very capable squad that is chasing their first flag since the ‘threepeat’ in the early 2000s.

Set a club season record of winning every home game at their fortress Gabba (11-0). Given that they are going to be having two games there, after finishing second. All things point to them being part of the big day at the ‘G’ come the end of September.

Possess a lethal forward line. Finishing second highest scorers behind Adelaide. They can hit the scoreboard really quickly whilst they have also tightened up in defence as well; all of which are the key ingredients for a successful campaign.

Port Adelaide (Ladder Position: 3rd)
Nickname: ‘Power’
Colours: Black, White, Teal & Silver
Coach: Ken Hinkley
Captain(s): Tom Jonas

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Put together a club record 13 consecutive victories, during the middle of the season, which set them up nicely to claim their third top-four finish in the last four years.

Having missed out altogether in 2022, coach Ken Hinkley was under pressure but came through with flying colours and rewarded was with a new two-year contract.

Have a strong midfield with star man Connor Rozee (pictured above), named in the All-Australian squad as well as winning his first AFL Coaches’ Association AFL Champion Player of the Year Award, having a standout season and in red hot form.

Last appeared in a Grannie back in 2004 when they won the only flag in their 26 years of being part of the AFL – more than capable of beating anyone on their day.

Melbourne (Ladder Position: 4th)
Nickname: ‘Demons’
Colours: Red & Blue
Coach: Simon Goodwin
Captain: Max Gawn

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Whilst the Demons have earned themselves two bites at the cherry. Fourth place has earned the nickname ‘The death seat’ because no one from that position has gone on to the ultimate success this century, although records are there to be broken.

The 2021 winners disappointingly went out in straight sets twelve months ago and are desperate to come back for another opportunity at the Premiership Cup.

Boast a stellar defence and have a star-studded midfield – the Max Gawn/Brody Grundy experiment clearly hasn’t worked out which has left them a bit light up front and plenty of moving the magnets.

However, the return of forward Bayley Fritsch (pictured above), who booted five majors on his return from injury, has come at the perfect time.

Carlton (Ladder Position: 5th)
Nickname: ‘Blues’
Colours: Navy Blue
Coach: Michael Voss
Captain: Patrick Cripps

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The wait is finally over for Blues supporters who, following ten long years. We get to see their side in action at the pointy end and on the back of some decent form.

Michael Voss (pictured above) deserves a lot of credit for being able to turn the club’s fortunes around mid-season, where at one stage it looked to be going horribly wrong and they were going to miss out before putting together a club record run of nine straight wins.

Forward Charlie Curnow has been unstoppable in recent weeks, en route to claiming back-to-back Coleman Medals, and will play a key role in just how far they can go.

Hold recent successes over Collingwood and Melbourne which shows they can match it with the best of them – last won the grand prize back in 1995.

St.Kilda (Ladder Position: 6th)
Nickname: ‘Saints’
Colours: Red, White & Black
Coach: Ross Lyon
Captain: Jack Steele

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Started the season ablaze, which has gone on to serve them well. Despite a couple of wobbly patches, they have remained in the top eight throughout 2023.

Coach Ross Lyon (pictured above), in his second spell back at the club, has done a wonderful role in managing to get the most out of a squad that has exceeded expectations.

Boast the meanest defence in the competition, although they have struggled at the other end of the oval which could be a real Achilles heel. Unlikely to go all the way, nonetheless, this will be a valuable growth experience for the playing group.

Greater Western Sydney (Ladder Position: 7th)
Nickname: ‘Giants’
Colours: Orange, Charcoal & White
Coach: Adam Kingsley
Captain: Toby Greene

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Stormed into the all-important eight with a vital triumph, on the last weekend of the home-and-away season, to complete what has been an excellent year so far.

Coach Adam Kingsley, in his first senior coaching role, has done a tremendous job in lifting the Giants from 16th to once again be a part of the September action.

Toby Greene (pictured above), named as club captain for 2023, has been immense throughout the campaign and has recently been given the armband of the All-Australian team.

Hard to see them winning the first flag in their 12-year club history but a no-nonsense, never-give-up outfit that could certainly ruffle a few feathers in this series.

Sydney (Ladder Position: 8th)
Nickname: ‘Swans’
Colours: Red & White
Coach: John Longmire
Captain(s): Callum Mills, Dane Rampe & Luke Parker

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Last season’s Grand Finalists had a rather inconsistent campaign, not helped by a number of injuries, but did enough in the back half to claim the last available spot.

John Longmire (pictured above), the longest-serving active AFL coach, has a wealth of experience and during his tenure has led the Swans to a flag (2012), 3x runners-up (2014, 2016 & 2022) and 2x minor premiers (2014 & 2016) – he won’t be fazed by the challenge.

Despite the loss of one of the AFL greats in Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, who retired at the end of last month, still possess a good balance of seasoned veterans along with a strong crop of younger players coming through and showing their potential.

Betting Odds

Collingwood $3.50, Brisbane $3.75, Melbourne $4, Port Adelaide $7, Carlton $10, Greater Western Sydney $21, St.Kilda $34, Sydney $51 (Source: Sportsbet)

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