Western Bulldogs captain Easton Wood announced his retirement in late October and Adelaide defender Daniel Talia also retired. Wood, 32, said his body could no longer cope with the demands of AFL and that he felt his physical capabilities were declining and he did not want to let down the club. He has struggled with several injuries in recent seasons, including hamstring and ankle issues which restricted him to 15 games in 2021. He played the last eight games of the year including the Grand Final loss to the Melbourne Demons.
Finals matches between the Demons and Bulldogs have been sparse over the years. Of course, the Demons are well ahead of the Bulldogs with 12 premierships to two. The first finals match was a semi-final in 1946 which Melbourne won 17.18 (120) to 15.12 (102). They played a Preliminary Final in 1961. The Bulldogs won it 13.7 (85) to 8.10 (58). In between those two matches was the 1954 Grand Final - the only Grand Final between the Demons and Bulldogs until now. The Bulldogs prevailed 15.12 (102) to 7.9 (51) for their first premiership since entering the competition in 1925. The Demons went on to appear in four more Grand Finals since 1954, winning two against Collingwood in 1960 and 1964 and losing two against Hawthorn in 1988 and Essendon in 2000.
Just days after Round 20 concluded, three players announced their retirements - Collingwood's Chris Mayne, Eagle Dan Venables and Bulldog Lon Jong.
Defender Chris Mayne announced he would retire at the end of the season. in making the announcement, Mayne said, “The time is right, personally and professionally. From a family perspective, Britt and I have two young children and we want them to settle and share more time with our families in Perth. From a football perspective, I don’t feel that I can squeeze much more out of myself. I still love the game and want to continue trying to get a kick at some level next year but at the highest level I recognize it’s getting tougher, not easier.”
The AFL Supplementary Selection Period (SSP) ended on March 9 with eight clubs selecting 12 players. Several had been delisted by other clubs and were invited to train with other clubs in the hope of being selected. Below are the clubs and their selections.
The AFL has announced their annual life members and the winners of the Jack Titus Award for service to the game. The life membership awards will officially be presented at the league AGM in March. Nine players and coaches qualified automatically by reaching the total of 300 games as either player or coach, including preseason games and international rules.
The preseason and rookie drafts were held about a week after the National Draft. The rookie list was primarily used to officially relist senior players as rookies. They included Grant Birchall (Brisbane), Sam Reid (GWS Giants), Marty Gleeson (Essendon), Dylan Clarke (Essendon), Roarke Smith (Western Bulldogs), Daniel Venables (West Coast) and Bailey Banfield (Fremantle).
The Swans have moved Robbie Fox and Sam Gray to the rookie list under the new AFL Rules. Both will be listed as Category A rookies for the 2021 season. Under the new rules, the club does not need to wait until the rookie draft period and the pair will be available for senior selection without having to be elevated back to the senior list.
In mid-November, the AFL announced that club lists will be the following: 36 to 38 senior players, 4-6 Category A rookies and two Category B rookies. Rookie listed players will be allowed to play senior football without having to be elevated to the senior list. So many clubs have had to make hard calls on players, with some clubs even demoting senior players to rookie lists. Although there have already been some trades and free agent signings, the free agency period ran November 25 through November 29 with the first list lodgment due November 25 ahead of the free agency period.
The Adelaide Crows have delisted Riley Knight, Patrick Wilson and Ayce Taylor. Knight, 25, was drafted in 2013 and played 55 games. Wilson, 25, was drafted in 2018 and played just two senior games but none this year. Taylor was added to the list during the preseason supplemental selection period but never played a senior game. Wilson, while playing in the SANFL, won two best and fairest awards.
The Western Bulldogs survived early pressure from the Fremantle Dockers to overcome their young opponents and jump back into the top eight, at the expense of the Melbourne Demons. The Dogs had to beat the Dockers to make the finals and were the more desperate team as the game progressed. The Dockers' cause was not helped with the late withdrawal of their leading scorers, Matthew Taberner and Michael Walters due to injury. The Dockers were already missing four of their first-choice defenders, so a win against the desperate dogs was always against the odds.