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. "
Port Adelaide midfielder and former Brisbane captain Tom Rockliff also announced his retirement. Rockliff, 31, has had a horror run of injuries this year. Early in May, he landed awkwardly during a SANFL match, damaging both knees. He was confined to a wheelchair in early May after surgery. Just a week later, he was hospitalized after complaining of acute calf pain. He was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis and the doctors found blood clots on his lungs. He has been on blood-thinning medication since, and he was barred from taking part in any contact drills when he returned to training duties several weeks ago.
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.
Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne conducted a study between 2017 and 2019. The study, published in the journal Biomarker Research, carried out baseline blood tests on between 100 and 200 Melbourne University Blacks players in the preseason each year. They then followed up with more blood tests and MRI scans on 28 players who had suffered concussions. Blood samples were then collected at two, six and thirteen day intervals. The researchers found a biomarker protein called Neurofilament light (NfL). Elevated levels of NfL is an indicator for damaged brain cells.
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 strangest season in AFL history is about to get real for the following 10 teams, but only eight of them will play finals football and in turn give themselves a chance to take home the Premiership Cup. AFANA runs the slide rule over where your club can finish after what should be another crazy round of footy. If your team isn’t mentioned below, it’s time to start thinking about next year…
As the season winds down, it is that time of year when players decide to retire. Heading into the last weeks before finals, four announced they were hanging up the boots - Sun Pearce Hanley, Bomber Conor McKenna, Adelaide's Bryce Gibbs and Carlton's Matthew Kreuzer.
The AFL began announcing its annual Hall of Fame inductions at the beginning of June. Due to the pandemic, the usual gala ceremony could not be held. The announcements were made gradually over a period of days and everything had to be done remotely. Brisbane premiership teammates Jonathan Brown and Simon Black were inducted, joining fellow teammates Michael Voss (2011), Jason Akermanis (2015), and Nigel Lappin (2016). Their admissions reinforce Brisbane's status as one of the most dominant teams of the early 2000s. Beloved St Kilda stalwart Lenny Hayes was another inductee. Also inducted were two greats of the Port Adelaide Magpies in the SANFL: John Albey and Greg Phillips; as well as former Eagle ruckman Dean Cox and beloved commentator Dennis Cometti. Coaching great John Kennedy Sr was elevated to legend status. Kennedy was one of the inaugural inductees as a coach in 1996. AFL boss Gil McLachlan visited Kennedy and his wife at their home to inform Kennedy of his elevation.