We’re set for one of the tightest finishes to an AFL season in recent memory, with 10 clubs vying for the last four spots inside the Top 8.
Four clubs sitting pretty atop the AFL ladder have not only locked in their 2023 ticket to September, but they’re all but locked inside the Top 4, too. For flag favourites Collingwood ($2.75), five games clear inside the Top 4 with four games to play, the double-chance is already sealed. Not only that, the minor premiership is all but in their hands too at $1.02. Three games clear inside the Top 4, Port Adelaide (second) are nearly nailed on to get two bites at the cherry, too. The Power’s key concern now is remaining inside the top-two to guarantee two home finals. And while they are a game clear of Brisbane (third) and Melbourne (fourth), the Lions and Dees boast a far better percentage and will leapfrog Ken Hinkley’s men should they slip up.
Finishing second, then, has become the battle-within-the-battle for these AFL clubs. Melbourne has the most straightforward draw, facing just one current Top 8 club (Carlton, 7th) in the last month. The Dees have won four on the bounce, contrasting with the Power (who have lost three in a row) and Brisbane (lost two in their last three). Simon Goodwin’s men look a strong chance to finish second, from which they can launch another premiership assault.
The Dees might have found their best forward mix and Harrison Petty is at the heart of it.
— AFL (@AFL) July 31, 2023
Onto the clubs scrapping it out for the AFL Top 8…
Three teams have put themselves in a strong position for a Top 8 return. None are there yet, but wins this weekend will put them one foot inside. Carlton ($1.26 to make the finals with Palmerbet) are the form team of the competition, having won six on the trot — the most recent of which was over the flag favourites. But for all their good recent work, defeat to St Kilda this weekend (with Melbourne to come) could make Michael Voss’ task a nervy one in the final rounds. GWS ($1.53) are also on a streak of their own; seven on the trot in fact — a club record. But they face a tough run-in, with no gimmes. The Battle of the Bridge this week looms as one of the biggest home-and-away clashes between the crosstown rivals. The Bulldogs join the Giants at $1.53. Luke Beveridge’s men, conversely, have a more straightforward run-in that includes a near-certain four points over West Coast. However the Dog’s form (three losses in four) means they’re ripe for the picking.
"This is a wasted year, they are wasting one of the AFL's great lists and that comes down to coaching"@kanecornes says the Bulldogs' board should be having serious discussions about whether to continue with Luke Beveridge as coach. #9AFLSFS | Channel 9 📺 pic.twitter.com/MVUpzy0nVs
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) July 30, 2023
These are the clubs likely scrapping for seventh and eighth in what is a log-jammed battle.
Geelong ($1.91 to make the Top 8) have turned from near certainties to make the finals — $1.17 just a fortnight ago — to a far more shaky position, after Fremantle pulled off the season’s biggest upset at Kardinia Park last week, saluting as $9.45 underdogs. History is on their side, having missed the finals just once in the past 16 years, but with the AFL’s top two sides to come in the next fortnight (Port Adelaide, then Collingwood), they can’t rely on that to get them over the line.
Most people say the ladder doesn’t lie by this stage of the season. But in St Kilda’s case, it seemingly does. Sitting 5th heading into Round 21, most sides would expected a finals series to come. However for the Saints ($2.10), nothing is certain. And that’s because they have the league’s toughest run home, with Carlton, Richmond, Geelong and Brisbane to come. Sydney ($3.30) have breathed life into a previously lifeless season after bagging three straight wins. In all likelihood John Longmire’s men will need to win at least three of their final four to make another AFL finals series, making this weekend’s Battle of the Bridge a real humdinger. Richmond and Adelaide (both $3.50) sit just behind the Swans, due to the former’s poor sub-100 percentage and the latter boasting half-a-win less than the three sides above them, who have all drawn a game in 2023. Five losses in six has Essendon ($4.00) — level on nine wins with Adelaide but also a poor sub-100 percentage — likely needing four wins to finish in 2023 to squeeze into the Top 8.
— AFL (@AFL) July 29, 2023
And if you fancy one club to come from the clouds? Gold Coast. Although their chance for a first ever AFL finals appearance appears to have slipped, they’re still in with a shot. At $11 to make the Top 8, it would be an almighty effort…