AFL Finals Week 1 Preview: Betting, Stats & Format

After one of the closest home and away seasons in recent memory, the AFL Finals will kick off this Thursday with a huge game between the Lions and the Tigers at the Gabba. In this article, we’ll provide you with a refresher of the finals format, before taking an in-depth look at all four games set to take place over the course of the weekend, and a couple of tips. 


AFL Finals Format

The AFL Finals format has remained the same since it was first incepted in 2000, with the top eight teams qualifying for the postseason, which lasts for four weeks. The system sounds complicated to explain verbally, but on paper is relatively simple to follow, and offers a significant advantage to teams which finish in the top four. This is how this year’s finals will look.


Week One

1st Qualifying Final (QF1): Geelong Cats (1) vs Collingwood Magpies (4)

2nd Qualifying Final (QF2): Melbourne Demons (2) vs Sydney Swans (3)

1st Elimination Final (EF1): Fremantle Dockers (5) vs Western Bulldogs (8)

2nd Elimination Final (EF2): Brisbane Lions (6) vs Richmond Tigers (7)


Week Two

1st Semifinal (SF1): Loser QF1 vs Winner EF1

2nd Semifinal (SF2): Loser QF2 vs Winner EF2


Week Three

1st Preliminary Final (PF1): Winner QF1 vs Winner SF2

2nd Preliminary Final (PF2): Winner QF2 vs Winner SF1


Week Four

Grand Final: Winner PF1 vs Winner PF2


Essentially, every game throughout the course of the finals is a knockout game with the exception of the first two qualifying finals, from which the winner advances to week three and the winner to week two. Typically it’s from this group of four that the Premier emerges, but as the Bulldogs demonstrated in 2016, there are certainly exceptions to the rule. The closeness of the top eight this season means that precious little has separated the Dockers and Lions from the top four all year, while the Tigers are looking ominous in seventh, and as a result it’s not at all outside the realms of possibility for a team in the bottom half of the eight to win it all in 2022. Every game this weekend could easily involve the eventual Premier, so let’s take a look at how all four of them are shaping up.


Brisbane Lions vs Richmond Tigers

September 1st, 7:20pm @ Gabba


It’s become almost a matter of course for the Lions to take on the Tigers in the first week of the finals in recent years. This will be the third time in four years it’s happened, With all of those games having taken place at the Gabba. The two times prior have been split at one win apiece, though the Tigers went on to win the flag in both of those years. This year will be the first time in that period, however, in which the loser will be sent packing from the finals. 

Such a result would be a major disappointment for the Lions; despite finishing in the top four the last three years they’ve not made it to a Grand Final in that time, and this year lost their shot at a double chance after an inauspicious end to the season. That concluded ignominiously with a 58-point defeat to the Demons in a game which could have seen them sew up a top four spot with a victory.

That form is in stark contrast to their opposition this weekend, who enter the finals looking like the most dangerous side outside the top eight. After a season littered with close losses, the Tigers finally found their way back to their ruthless best over the past month of the home and away season. That began with a stirring seven-point victory over the Lions, of all teams, in Round 20, in which they came back from 42 points down at the MCG. They subsequently comfortably beat the Power and then destroyed both the Hawks and Bombers, and with a little x-factor by the name of Dustin Martin set to return this week, they are not the team Brisbane would have been hoping to come up against this week. At the Gabba, the Lions will certainly not be easy to beat, but there is a reason the Tigers enter the game as favourites.


Notable Stats and Trends

  •  Brisbane have won just one of their past six finals games.
  •  The last four games between these sides have been split at two apiece, but Richmond won an incredible 15 in a row against the Lions prior to that.
  •  These were the two highest scoring teams in the league over the course of the home and away season.



Melbourne Demons vs Sydney Swans

September 2nd, 7:50pm @ MCG


Both the Demons and the Swans entered Round 23 needing to win to secure a top four spot, and each of them did what they needed to do to lock in the double chance. Unfortunately for the Swans, Melbourne’s dominant win over Brisbane boosted their percentage sufficiently to see them steal second spot, and subsequently this game will be played at the MCG rather than the SCG.  

 The Dees have been tough to beat on their home soil this year, winning eight of their 11 games at the home of footy, but one of those defeats came at the hands of the Swans in Round 13. Sydney are certainly a better team at the SCG, but they haven’t exactly been easy beats on the road, boasting a 7-4 away record this year. They also enter the game having won seven consecutive games and are one of the in-form sides of the competition, so the Demons can’t afford to underestimate them. The major question mark surrounding them heading into this game might be related to experience; at their best the Swans are close to unstoppable, but will their youthful side be able to match it with the experience of the reigning Premiers on the big stage?


Notable Stats and Trends

  • The Demons have conceded the least points in the league this year, while the Swans have scored more than all but three other teams.
  •  The Swans haven’t won a final since 2017.
  • Melbourne have won just three of their last 19 games against Sydney.


Geelong Cats vs Collingwood Magpies

September 3rd, 4:35pm @ MCG


The Magpies’ extraordinary season somehow managed to become even more unbelievable in Round 23, as they came back from 24 points down at three-quarter time to win by a point and lock in a top four spot, while simultaneously booting one of their biggest rivals in the Blues from the finals. That made it seven wins from eight games, with each of those wins coming by seven points or less. Incredibly, they finished inside the top four with a 16-6 record despite boasting a percentage of just 104.3%, substantially less than the Power in 11th.

The Cats, in contrast, have just a couple more wins but a percentage of 144.2%, indicative of their dominance throughout the course of the year. They’ve been virtually unstoppable over the past few months, winning 13 in a row and rarely looking likely to lose. For all of their struggles in the latter stages of September in recent years, they are the deserved favourite to win the flag at $2.90, and the comfortable favourites to win this game.


Notable Stats and Trends

  •  The Cats have made at least the Preliminary Final in 11 of the past 15 seasons.
  •  The Magpies’ 11 wins by under two goals this season is the most in history, and their percentage of 104.3% is the lowest of any top four side since 1998.
  •  Geelong have won their last three games against Collingwood, and six of their last eight.



Fremantle Dockers vs Western Bulldogs

September 3rd, 8:10pm @ Optus Stadium


Until the Magpies swooped from 24 points down to beat the Blues by a point, the Dockers were sitting pretty inside the top four. That result, however, saw them fall to fifth, and as a result they’ll have to do it the hard way if they want to win their first Premiership in the club’s history. First cab off the rank for them is the Western Bulldogs, who in contrast to Fremantle benefitted enormously from Collingwood’s comeback, without which they would have missed the finals. 

The Bulldogs are the least credentialed finalist in terms of their performance throughout the season, but at their best are a dangerous side capable of scoring in bunches. Boasting the second stingiest defence in the league this year, however, Fremantle won’t make it easy for them to utilise that capability. Just a few weeks ago, the Dockers beat the Bulldogs by three goals in Melbourne, and at Optus Stadium they’ll be expecting a repeat result this time around.



AFL Finals Futures

Check out the odds for some of the major finals markets below.


Premiership Winner

Geelong Cats – $2.90

Melbourne Demons – $3.20

Sydney Swans – $6.00

Collingwood Magpies – $9.00

Richmond Tigers – $11.00

Fremantle Dockers – $17.00

Brisbane Lions – $31.00

Western Bulldogs – $34.00

To Make Grand Final

Geelong Cats – $1.65

Melbourne Demons – $1.70

Sydney Swans – $2.65

Collingwood Magpies – $4.20

Richmond Tigers – $7.50

Fremantle Dockers – $11.00

Western Bulldogs – $12.00

Brisbane Lions – $16.00


Gary Ayres Medal (Best Player in the Finals)

Clayton Oliver – $11.00

Callum Mills – $13.00

Christian Petracca – $13.00

Luke Parker – $16.00

Patrick Dangerfield – $16.00

Tom Stewart – $19.00

Cameron Guthrie – $21.00

Chad Warner – $21.00

Jeremy Cameron – $21.00

Shai Bolton – $21.00


AFL Finals Week 1 Tips and Predictions

Richmond -4.5 @ $1.85

On their day, the Lions are capable of playing very high level footy, but they haven’t consistently been able to reach that mark for an extended period of time now. In contrast, the Tigers are a far better side than their seventh place finish indicates and could easily have finished top four had a few things swung their way. They enter the finals in ominous form, and should be able to knock off the Lions on the road by more than this line.


Geelong -17.5 @ $1.90

The Magpies’ journey this year has been enthralling to watch and the collective belief they appear to have as a group makes them a dangerous opponent, but while there is no doubt they have consistently performed when it matters most, their plethora of close wins means they have probably finished higher than their talent level would dictate. Geelong, in contrast, is as consummately professional an outfit as there is in the game, and should be able to dispose of the Pies without too many problems.


 Odds quoted are accurate at the time of writing but are subject to change.