AFL Finals

Finals Tragics
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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

To paraphrase the introduction to old TV show The Naked City, there are many stories in finals history, these are a few. Every player and team strive for the ultimate prize of a premiership. Over the years, there have been many players whose teams get to the Finals or a Grand Final, but they are absent either through injury, poor form, suspension or simply being excluded from selection. These are some of those stories. [Ed. note: A "tragic" is someone for whom luck does not fall on their side and in this case, a perhaps once in a career opportunity is missed.]

Expansion Teams: Finals Success and Failure
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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Up until 1986, there were only 12 teams in the then VFL (the name changed in 1990), comprising the original teams from 1896 as well as Hawthorn, Richmond, Footscray (now Western Bulldogs) and North Melbourne being admitted later (see our Footy FAQ for more history). West Coast v Sydney, Grand Final 2005, photo copyright AFANA.All these teams were based in Victoria, seven in Melbourne and the Cats in Geelong (just an hour's drive west of Melbourne). In 1987, the league decided to expand their horizons in an effort to spread the game.

Crows Crush Kangaroos
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Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting from Adelaide Oval for AFANA

A slick Adelaide Crows unit has sent North Melbourne packing for season 2016 with a dominant second half blitz at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night. Livewire Crows forward Eddie Betts stole the show kicking six goals to snuff out any chance of a North Melbourne challenge, a result in keeping with two teams at the opposite end of the form line.

Eagles Savaged by Bulldog Packs
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Chris Kowald reporting for AFANA from Domain Stadium Perth, Australia.

In a Thursday night (Perth time) elimination final, the Western Bulldogs defied history and the betting markets by shredding the West Coast Eagles at Domain Stadium.  Bulldogs players celebrate as the Eagles players realise the season is over. AFL post season match in Perth. Photo by David Woodley for AFANA.Eleven days earlier the Bulldogs had been humiliated at the same venue by losing to the struggling Fremantle Dockers. Experienced tipsters gave the Bulldogs no chance of defeating the Eagles who had lost only one home game this season.

The AFANA AFL 2016 Finals Preview
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Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA

So, who wins it all? In what looks to be the most open finals series for some time, you could mount a solid argument for six teams that could potentially take out the 2016 premiership. Read on for my take on who can win the Aussie rules championship in 2016 and why – and my pick for the two teams that will meet in the biggest AFL match of the year on October 1st.

I’ll start in reverse order of regular season finish, from eighth to top spot.

2016 Schedule Introduces Rest Week Before Finals
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by Johnson Leung reporting for AFANA from Melbourne

The 2016 AFL schedule was announced last week. The biggest change is the addition of a bye week between the end of Round 23 and the Finals. In Round 23 this year, Fremantle and North Melbourne controversially rested a total of 20 players so they could be refreshed for the Finals. AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan conceded the moves by the two clubs were unsatisfactory and "a drag on the integrity of our competition", thus the extra week off was introduced to ensure similar situations would not happen again. The League plans to showcase a range of events and awards during the bye week, which could include a women's game, the All-Australian Awards and Rising Star Awards.

Once again, traditional rivals Richmond and Carlton will kick off the season with a Thursday night clash at the MCG on March 24, the day before Good Friday. Five days later Hawthorn will begin their Premiership defense at the same venue, against a new-look Geelong side which will likely include recruits Patrick Dangerfield, Scott Selwood and Lachie Henderson. For the second year in a row, the Grand Final will be held in the first Saturday in October. Next year it falls on October 1.

Hawks Create History with Third Consecutive Premiership
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Janet Linn reporting for AFANA from Australia

Captain Hodge and defender Josh Gibson share the love with the fans after defeating West Coast eagles in the AFL Grand Final. Photo by Kim Densham for AFANA.While it was the hottest Grand Final in history with the mercury hitting 31.3 degrees Celsius (88.3 Fahrenheit), the much anticipated “close contest” between Hawthorn and the West Coast did not bring the heat many anticipated and - in the case of West Coast supporters - hoped for. In the end, this Grand Final was not a replay of “David and Goliath”. The Hawks entered the match favorites and they won nearly everything - the coin toss, all the important game statistics, the Premiership Cup, the Norm Smith Medal and the full-blown respect of the Australian football public. The Hawks' players were never challenged in a master class performance of Aussie Rules football. Alastair Clarkson and his coaching staff cemented a well-earned place in history as the Hawks won the “three-peat”, back to back Premierships in 2013 (defeating Fremantle), 2014 (dominating over Sydney) and now in 2015. No doubt West Coast fans are wondering what happened and how their break out season ended so lamely.

Can the Hawks Repeat 1991?
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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

The Finals history between Hawthorn and West Coast is brief, with just two Finals matches and one Grand Final since the Eagles were admitted to the competition in 1987. The Hawks were a powerhouse throughout the 1980's with Grand Final appearances from 1983-1989. The Hawks won four of those seven matches, including two in a row in 1988 and 1989. At the time, West Coast was a fledgling team aiming high. While Hawthorn had many battle-hardened warriors, the Eagles were comprised of a few experienced players who had returned to Perth from the Victorian teams they played for to join the Eagles, players plucked from teams in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) and young players from the juniors' competition via the draft.

Crows Down Bulldogs in Shootout
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Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA

A crowd of just above 60,000 witnessed a thrilling Elimination Final on Saturday night as the Adelaide Crows ensured the Western Bulldogs would be the first team knocked out of the Finals race in 2015.Crows pressuring during the third quarter bomb a long ball into the forwards as the Bulldogs defend. Photo by Kim Densham for AFANA. Despite leading most of the statistics that usually result in victory (contested possession, time in forward half, clearances and shots on goal), the Bulldogs let themselves down in front of goal, while their Adelaide opponents nailed crucial shots which turned out to be the difference between living to fight another day or packing the footy boots away for another season.

Who Makes the Top Eight?
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Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA

While preparations for Grand Final parties around the globe continue to take shape, the final three rounds of the AFL season will bring fans plenty of excitement. There will be heartbreak for some, as eleven teams remain in Finals' contention with only eight spots up for grabs. The top five - Fremantle, West Coast, Hawthorn, the Western Bulldogs and the Sydney Swans - have all but locked up a place in the post-season, but there is a traffic jam of teams vying for positions six through eight. What better time to run the slide rule over the remaining rounds and see if we can work out who makes the major round – and who is left to pick up the pieces?

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