Round 24 of the 2023 AFL season saw just one Top 8 position change hands, but not before a whole heap of drama to finalise September spots.
Giants seal deserved finals spot
For all the forensic examination of the different scenarios to play out, only one small change occurred in the Top 8 after Round 24; the two Sydney clubs swapped spots as the Swans dropped from seventh to eighth, and GWS jumped from eighth to seventh. But that small fact doesn’t do service to the drama involved in this weekend’s footy.
The Western Bulldogs ticked off their first of two key boxes by beating the Cats down in Geelong as $1.55 favourites. But the second box, in which they relied on the Giants losing to Carlton, finished with a big cross in it. Adam Kingsley’s men shook off a lacklustre start to run away with it as $2.21 outsiders, to seal an AFL Top 8 spot in his first season in charge. Once again, main man Toby Greene led the way with a game-high four majors ($3.45 pre-game). It’s an incredible achievement from the Giants, who after Round 12 were distant $21 Top 8 hopes. But they came home with a wet sail, winning nine of their last 11 to come into September chock full of confidence.
And don’t discount them to do some damage. Despite playing away in the second AFL elimination final, they’ve opened as favourites to knock off the Saints, who they very nearly snatched a home final from.
A reminder that the Giants were 3-7 this year.
— 7AFL (@7AFL) August 27, 2023
Dogs ‘not good enough’
On the other side of the ledger, it’s damning reading for the Dogs. After Round 16 they sat well inside the Top 8 and were $1.22 finals hopes. But losses to the lowly Hawks and Eagles in the final weeks of the season proved damning. And now, questions are being asked of 2016 premiership coach Luke Beveridge.
There’s two prevailing thoughts on the Dogs, and Beveridge’s future. The optimistic side says they’ve made two of the last seven AFL grand finals, winning the premiership in one. The more damning side says they’ve not only never made the Top 4 under Beveridge but have never been a consistent side during the home and away season despite boasting a list with undeniable Top 4 potential. Some believe it’s not a bad things for the club to have missed September action, which might have papered over the obvious cracks.“I think it would’ve been a false read if they made the finals this year, they haven’t been good enough, on or off the field. And that’s the honest truth,” Fox Footy’s David King said post-match.
"That’s the honest truth." 🤨
Dogs urged to conduct brutal probe, 'sell a reason' to keep stars …. meanwhile a second domino has reportedly fallen.
— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) August 28, 2023
Sheezel puts cherry on top
To round out the home and away season, a nod to the AFL Rising Star.
Hot favourite heading into the final round, North Melbourne’s Harry Sheezel racked up 29 touches in his side’s upset win over the Gold Coast to put the cherry on top of a fine first year. The performance saw the talented distributing defender shorten from $1.30 into $1.25. (Sheezel started the season at $13 with Palmerbet). The favourite heading into the 2023 season (at $2.00), Brisbane’s Will Ashcroft was well on his way to claiming the coveted award and had shortened into $1.50 before a cruel twist of fate saw him rupture an ACL in Round 19. He is still a $4.00 chance, however, to be handed enough votes to win the medal.
Overall, It was an incredible young brigade this season. The Saints’ Mitch Owens ($6.50 third-favourite) has given everything all year. But it speaks to the class of youngsters to see Fremantle’s Jye Amiss out at $18 given any other year he could well be the favourite. The Dockers forward kicked a goal in 19 of 22 games, and finished with 41 majors for the season. It’s an incredible return in the modern game for a 20-year-old.
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) August 27, 2023