The wait is almost over with a brand new footy season just around the corner when Richmond take on Carlton, in the traditional curtain raiser, next Thursday evening (7.20pm) which has already sold out and will see a jam-packed MCG.
Reigning Premiers Geelong, who picked up their first flag in eleven years after thrashing Sydney last September, head in as the bookmakers favourites to go back-to-back despite the loss of their retiring, record-breaking club captain Joel Selwood.
The Cats have recruited well over the summer with the arrivals of Jack Bowes, Tanner Bruhn, Ollie Henry and look set to have another very strong campaign.
Melbourne, winners in 2021 but crashed out in straight sets last year, with a squad that boasts a league-high four players in the recently named ‘AFLPA 22 Under 22 Team of the Decade’ look certain to be there again at the pointy end.
Could it finally be Brisbane’s year? The Lions have reached the preliminary final stage in two of the last three years and will be looking to improve on that this time.
The arrivals of experienced duo Josh Dunkley and Jack Gunston along with exciting young prospect Will Ashcroft (pictured below) to an impressive line-up could see them “cherry ripe”.Embed from Getty Images
Damien Hardwick, the Tigers’ three-time Premiership and longest-serving coach is bullish about his club’s chances of having a real crack come September. He says there is a “real buzz about the place” and also “similarities to 2017” when the 50-year-old led them to his first flag and then on to further successes in 2019 and 2020.
Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper, both from Greater Western Sydney, have both come through the door at Punt Road while 3×Norm Smith and 1×Brownlow Medallist superstar Dustin Martin (pictured below) is back to full fitness following an injury plagued 18 months.Embed from Getty Images
Sydney, who had an excellent 2022 before falling in dramatic fashion at the final hurdle, and a Carlton outfit that missed out on a first finals appearance since 2013, on a dramatic last day of the home-and-away season, should go well.
While Collingwood, without doubt the most exciting side to watch last year in setting a new AFL/VFL record for close wins in a season (nine by just a single figure margin), got a few key signings over the line to put them firmly in the mix.Embed from Getty Images
Rules changes for 2023
- The medical substitute has been replaced to a tactical, meaning that clubs can make a change for any reason.
- A 50-metre penalty will be awarded if a player, who has given away a free-kick or loses a marking contest, fails to stand the mark or enters the 5 metre protected area.
- However, a 50-metre penalty will no longer be paid if a player fakes a handball while behind the mark, drawing their opponent off their position.
- Players will no longer be given an alert by umpires at the 15-second mark of their set shot, instead just receiving a warning at 25 seconds (they are allowed 30 seconds to start their approach).
Format of the season
For the first time in AFL history, the season has been extended to a 24-round campaign (referred to as the “home-and-away”) during which each side will play 23 matches and have a ‘bye’, at some stage, around the mid-way point.
This is to accommodate the introduction of the ‘Gather Round’, which will feature all eighteen clubs playing in Adelaide after the state of South Australia won the bid over New South Wales to host it. This has been modelled on the Magic Round, which the National Rugby League has been scheduling, annually, since 2019.
The team who finishes top of the ladder is awarded the McClelland Trophy (Minor premiership). The top eight teams then play off in a four-round finals series.Embed from Getty Images
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 (8/9/10 September)
- Week 2 – Semi-finals (15/16 September)
- Week 3 – Preliminary finals (22/23 September)
- Week 4 – Grand final (30 September)
Colours: Navy Blue, Red & Gold
Coach: Matthew Nicks
Captain: Jordan Dawson
Colours: Maroon, Blue & Gold
Coach: Chris Fagan
Captain: Harris Andrews and Lachie Neale
Colours: Navy Blue
Coach: Michael Voss
Captain: Patrick Cripps
Colours: Black & White
Coach: Craig McRae
Captain: Darcy Moore
Colours: Red & Black
Coach: Brad Scott
Captain: Zach Merrett
Colours: Purple & White
Coach: Justin Longmuir
Captain: Alex Pearce
Colours: White & Navy Blue
Coach: Chris Scott
Captain: Patrick Dangerfield
Colours: Red, Gold & Blue
Coach: Stewart Dew
Captain(s): Touk Miller and Jarrod Witts
Greater Western Sydney (GWS)
Colours: Orange, Charcoal & White
Coach: Adam Kingsley
Captain: Toby Greene
Colours: Brown & Gold
Coach: Sam Mitchell
Captain: James Sicily
Colours: Red & Blue
Coach: Simon Goodwin
Captain: Max Gawn
Colours: Royal Blue & White
Coach: Alastair Clarkson
Captain(s): Luke McDonald and Jy Simpkin
Colours: Black, White, Teal & Silver
Coach: Ken Hinkley
Captain: Tom Jonas
Colours: Yellow & Black
Coach: Damien Hardwick
Captain(s): Dylan Grimes and Toby Nankervis
Colours: Red, White & Black
Coach: Ross Lyon
Captain: Jack Steele
Colours: Red & White
Coach: John Longmire
Captain(s): Josh Kennedy, Dane Rampe & Luke Parker
Colours: Royal Blue & Gold
Coach: Adam Simpson
Captain: Luke Shuey
Colours: Red, White & Blue
Coach: Luke Beveridge
Captain: Marcus Bontempelli
Odds to win the Grand Final
Geelong $5.50, Melbourne $6.50, Brisbane $7.50, Richmond $8, Collingwood $9.50, Carlton $10, Sydney $10, Fremantle $15, Port Adelaide $15, Western Bulldogs $15, St.Kilda $34, Essendon $51, Gold Coast $51, Adelaide $67, Greater Western Sydney $81, West Coast $101, Hawthorn $151, North Melbourne $151 (Source: Sportsbet)
You can stay up-to-date with all the latest news by visiting the official AFL website:
- Footy Feed is a daily look at the breaking news and analysis, dissecting the big stories as they unfold and wrapping up the developments from around the football world.
- AFL Daily (available Monday to Friday) is a podcast that sets the agenda on footy’s biggest stories.
- The AFL Exchange is a weekly podcast gives an entertaining take on the latest football developments.
- Access All Areas comes out every Monday reviewing the matches and main talking points from the weekend.
- Gettable is a new weekly show, out every Wednesday, which will be dedicated to trade, draft and free agency news.