The day after the Blues announced Michael Voss as their new coach, they announced the passing of long-time president John Elliott, just 10 days shy of his 80th birthday. His son Tom, a talk show host on radio station 3AW, confirmed the news, "It is with great sadness that we announce the death of John Dorman Elliott. He died Thursday evening at the Epworth Hospital in Richmond after a short illness. Dad will be greatly missed by his four children Tom, Caroline, Edward, and Alexandra. Their partners Elise, Craig, and Georgia plus grandchildren Henry, Sebastian, India, Ava, Lottie, and Mathilda will remember forever their 'Grandpa Jack'. Others to mourn his passing are his brother Ross, sister-in-law Jenny, former partner Joanne, and second wife Amanda. There are also numerous nieces, nephews, grandchildren." Elliott, who also served as federal president of the Liberal Party, suffered a fall at his home in early September.
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.
Demon champion Nathan Jones announced his retirement less than two weeks before the Grand Final. He informed his teammates via Zoom after leaving the club's hub in Perth to return home to be by his wife's side as she gave birth to twins. He flew out Saturday and made it just hours before she gave birth. Jones, 33, has not played a senior game since Round 14. He was an unused sub for Round 15 but was not recalled since. With West Australia's tight border restrictions, it was unlikely he would be allowed back across the border for the Grand Final. His career finishes with 101 wins, 198 defeats, and three draws. He kicked 141 goals in his 302 games. He was a Rising Star nominee in 2006 and 2007 and won the club best and fairest 2012, 2013, and 2014. He was co-captain in 2014 and 2017-19 and captain in 2015 and 2016.
A few days after the Semi-finals, West Coast announced three departures. Mark Hutchings and Brendon Ah Chee were delisted and ruckman Nathan Vardy retired. Hutchings, 30, played 120 games in nine seasons. He was a member of the 2018 Grand Final and played a key role in the game, shutting down Magpie star Steele Sidebottom.
Ah Chee, 27, was originally drafted by Port Adelaide in 2011 and played 27 games with the Power before being traded to the Eagles at the end of 2017. He was delisted and re-rookie listed by the Eagles at the end of 2019. He played 28 games for the Eagles. Vardy, 30, was drafted by Geelong in 2011 and played 25 games for the Cats before being traded to the Eagles at the end of 2016 and played 52 games including the 2018 premiership.
North Melbourne has delisted Taylor Garner, Dom Tyson, Will Walker, and Connor Menadue. Garner was drafted in 2012 and played 49 games. Tyson was originally drafted in 2011 by GWS and played 13 games before being traded to Melbourne at the end of 2013. He played 94 games for the Demons but was traded to North at the end of 2017. He managed just five games for the club. Walker was drafted in 2017 and played six games. Menadue was originally drafted by Richmond in 2014 and played 39 games. Unable to cement his place in the strong Tiger side, Menadue was delisted at the end of 2019. He signed with VFL club Werribee for the 2020 season but ended up sitting out the year when the VFL season was canceled due to COVID. He was picked up by North in the rookie draft and played seven games.
In early September, Collingwood announced the appointment of former Brisbane premiership player Craig McRae as the new senior coach. McRae, 47, beat out Richmond assistant Adam Kingsley after former Adelaide coach Don Pyke pulled out. McRae said of his appointment, "We're in the position of just getting as good as we can as quick as we can - we don't want to put a ceiling on that. I spoke to the playing group before and my appointment offers opportunity and possibility. I'm pretty pumped, let's face it, this is a significant part of my journey and it's been a long one." As a premiership player with Brisbane and an assistant at Hawthorn under Alastair Clarkson in 2021, he knows what it takes to win and said, "I have been fortunate to witness up close and share in some very successful programs and I know that teaching solid habits can build a winning habit of its own. "
Just days before the finals began and after weeks of speculation, Carlton dismissed senior coach David Teague. Also departing are assistants Brent Stanton, Dale Amos and John Barker. Teague had one more year to run on his contract, but an extensive review of the football department saw the club decide it needed change.
In an email sent to club members, new president Luke Sayers said: "It was identified that there had been confusion associated with the game plan ... the team has under-delivered in its ability to consistently defend, win the contest and apply pressure. This was highlighted, but not limited to, an overt, consistent focus on offense at a detriment to the defensive side of the game. While the easier option would have been to wait a further 12 months in the hope these deficiencies would change, the in-depth data gained ... left no doubt that such an option would not be in the best interests of the club ...".
Just a few days after Round 23, the AFL held their annual Hall of Fame ceremonies. Two current members were elevated to Legend status and there were four new inductees. West Australian Merv McIntosh and legendary SANFL coach Jack Oatey were elevated. The inductees were Nathan Burke, Chris Judd, Rob Wiley, and footy female pioneer Debbie Lee. Lee is the first woman to be inducted. Former Sydney star Adam Goodes declined to be inducted, due to his feeling that the AFL failed to support him properly when he was subjected to radial vilification in the last two years of his career. Garry McIntosh, a dual SANFL premiership player in 1982 and 1984 and games’ record-holder for the Norwood, also declined entry, saying he had not played the game for personal honors.
Young forward Tyson Stengle, 23, has officially been delisted. He was originally drafted by Richmond in the 2017 rookie draft and played two games before being traded to Adelaide at the end of 2018. However, he has had several off-field indiscretions. He was originally stood down last December but was officially stood down from the club this past March and has been playing with Woodville-West Torrens since. The Adelaide Crows released a statement confirming that the player and club had come to an agreement to end Stengle's employment. Stengle kicked 15 goals in 16 games for the Crows.
Gold Coast quartet Jack Hombsch, Jordan Murdoch, Jarrod Harbrow and Zac Smith have all announced their retirements. Hombsch and Murdoch played for the Suns for three seasons. Hombsch played just 18 games for the Suns after stints with GWS and Port Adelaide. Hombsch said, “It’s something that’s been in the works a little bit this season, but I feel pretty comfortable with the decision. Playing for three clubs I’m pretty grateful for because you just meet so many good people along the way ... I’ll certainly miss the footy club and I’ll miss playing AFL because it’s one of the best jobs going around.”
Murdoch started with Geelong before joining Gold Coast and played 110 games across 10 seasons. Murdoch said, “I feel I’m ready to begin the next step in my life. My wife Emma has followed me for 10 years and I think it’s time I take a back seat and let her follow her dreams. She’s been right there and incredible support for me throughout my career ... My highlights have been to see the development of the young guys at the club and chip in with bits and pieces that I’ve learned along the way and just try to help them.”