In the biggest media deal in Australian sporting history, the AFL announced on 6th of September that Channel Seven and Foxtel have retained the Australian domestic broadcast rights to men's and women's competitions for a further seven years, fending off strong challenges from rival channels Nine and 10. The new deal, which expires at the end of 2031 season, is worth a total of A$4.5 billion (US$3.08 billion) at an average of A$643 million per year, a large increase on the A$473 million per year figure for the two-year contract extension Seven and Foxtel signed with the League in 2020, at the height of COVID pandemic. The previous rights deal from 2017 and 2022, also with Seven and Foxtel, was worth A$2.5 billion. [Ed. note: This new deal does not immediately affect coverage in the US and Canada which are covered by pre-existing contracts extending beyond this season. The current AFL deal with Fox Sports US has a mutual renewal option for the 2023 season.]
A pleasant Friday evening welcomed the 62,162 crowd to the MCG for tonight's Second Semi Final. Before the first bounce the official business for the night got underway. With all players, official and match day staff lined up on the ground, the Welcome To Country, a minute's silence was observed for Queen Elizabeth II following her death this morning and the lowering of the stadium lights, God Save the King was played. Delta Goodrem sung Advance Australia Fair accompanied by guitar in the minutes leading up to the start of the match. Just to top it off a little bit of ACDC's Thunderstruck rolled up to the bounce.
Big forward Joe Daniher was a late out today, for family reasons. His loss up forward would mean all the focus was on Hipwood and less options up forward for the Lions who had three goals kicked by the big man in the previous game. The Demons dominated early and led the Brisbane to the ball and in all the statistical categories. Ed Langdon, unguarded in the pocket, kicked the first goal of match after five and half minutes, from 35 meters out with the set shot. Melbourne had more early chances as they had the ball in their forward half for most of the first quarter. The usual suspects in the middle for Melbourne led the way with Oliver and Petracca up and about early.
Sydney, Carlton, and North Melbourne saw more players move on. North Melbourne delisted Kyron Hayden, Matt McGuinness, and Patrick Walker. Hayden was drafted in 2017 and debuted in 2019. He played 17 games as a defender. In early 2020, injuries curtailed his season. He managed five games in 2022. McGuinness was an Academy selection in 2019 and Walker was selected in the 2020 rookie draft. Both played 17 games in the VFL in 2022. Neither managed any senior games.
Just after the conclusion of the season proper, Sydney ruckman Callum Sinclair and defender Colin O'Riordan announced their retirements. Sinclair, 32, was originally drafted by West Coast in 2012 and has played a total of 118 games. General Manager Charlie Gardiner said, "Callum has been a real warrior for us. He has played some really good senior football with us ... but in recent times his work with our VFL squad has been enormous. He has played a selfless role for the team and been a terrific leader amongst our developing players. Cal is a hugely popular player ... ".
A weekend of enthralling finals football culminated in a stunning elimination final comeback by the Fremantle Dockers, to knock the Western Bulldogs out of the 2022 competition. The Bulldogs, who played in last year's Grand Final, were left stunned by one of the greatest comebacks seen in a modern final. The Dockers pulled themselves off the canvas and delivered a knockout in front of a record 58,982 parochial fans.
It was the first time crowds were able to be at an MCG final in three years and over 77,000 rolled into this Friday night's 2nd Qualifying Final. At the end of the home and away season both teams finished on 16 wins, with just 2.7% between them on the Premiership ladder. But if there was anything to indicate how this might go, the Swans came into this match having won their last six home and away matches, while Melbourne lost to both Collingwood and the Bulldogs in that time.
Last season's Premiers, Melbourne, won the toss and kicked to the city end. On their home turf they would be eager to try to put the Swans out of contention early. So it looked in the first quarter. The Demons looked the best coming out of the blocks but breaking the early run of play, the first goal went to Hayward when ball, long to the square, spilled free and Hayward snapped the goal. Bailey Fritsch showed he was ready to fire when he cut off a pass to Gawn, and his set shot from 40 meters out from goal leveled the scores.
An early 5 PM start for the start of the Round 2 clash with the Demons women hosting the North Melbourne Tasmania Kangaroos at the MCG. The early kickoff did not deter the Demons though. Coming off an 18 point win away against Adelaide they were keen to remain undefeated. The crowd at kickoff was a conservative 1,000 patrons in the vast stadium.
After the early arm wrestle [early back and forth battle] it was Emma King who put the Kangaroos in the lead five minutes into the first quarter. Both teams had forays into the forward line but it was the discipline of the defense of both teams that won out. Kate Hore had a shot at goal after a high tackle from the inexperienced O'Shea but her kick drifted wide. At quarter time it was a five point lead to the Kangaroos. Riddell, O'Shea, and Smith leading the Roos ball winners and West and Purcell with most disposals for the Demons.
Delistings and trade requests have started and first out of the gate were Brisbane, Essendon, Carlton, and Port Adelaide. Port has delisted three players and confirmed wingman Karl Amon will depart as an unrestricted free agent.. Throughout much of the season, it was speculated that Amon, 27 desired a return home to Victoria. Hawthorn, Carlton and St Kilda were all interested but he has opted for the Hawks and will sign in October when the free agency period opens. List manager Jason Cripps said, “Karl has been an outstanding clubman ... and he should be commended for his professionalism and maturity ... ".
The three delisted players are former Brisbane Lion Sam Skinner, father-son selection Taj Schofield, and midfielder Sam Mayes. Skinner, 25, was drafted by Brisbane in 2015 and played 3 games in an injury-riddled stint before being delisted at the end of 2020. Port signed him as a delisted free agent but he managed just 2 games for Port. Schofield is the son of former player Jarrad Schofield and was rookie-listed in 2020 but never made a senior appearance. Mayes, 28, was drafted by Brisbane in 2013 and played 101 games before requesting a trade home to South Australia at the end of 2018. He played 20 games for Port.
The day after Round 23 concluded, GWS confirmed former Port Adelaide premiership player and current Richmond assistant coach Adam Kingsley as their new senior coach. It is believed he has signed a three year deal. Kingsley was one of the leading contenders along with Melbourne assistant Adem Yze and Giants interim Mark McVeigh. McVeigh took over when Leon Cameron stepped down earlier in the season.
Kingsley believes the club has what it needs to be successful, “It’s a privilege and an honor to be the next senior coach ... I’ve been clear in my aspirations to become a senior coach and over the last 16 years I’ve continued to learn and develop to the point now where I’m absolutely ready to take the next step ... This is a club which has built a strong culture from the ground up in just a few short years. In just 11 years the Giants have made multiple preliminary finals, and a Grand Final, and while the ultimate success has eluded the club, it’s clear the building blocks are in place. It's clear the players, staff, members and fans are hungry for success ... I believe in this club and what we can achieve together.”
During the latter part of the season, there was much speculation in the media about Alastair Clarkson's coaching future. Three clubs were linked to him - GWS, Essendon and North Melbourne. In early August, GWS opted not to pursue him and Clarkson himself later admitted his desire to remain in Victoria. Just as Round 23 was getting underway, North signed him to a five year deal. Although he had spoken to Essendon, he said he was "too far down the path" with North to consider Essendon's offer. Clarkson rejected overtures to replace contracted Bombers coach Ben Rutten and described the situation as "unsavory", having been approached about the position by their new president David Barham earlier in the week. He also said he only talked to Essendon out of a sense of fairness and respect for the people he knows at the club. But with Ben Rutten not being axed by the club at the time, Clarkson was not pleased with the situation, saying it had become a circus, "It really disappoints me, what's unfolded with 'Truck' Rutten out at the Bombers. He's a good man and he's a good football person ... ".
Just ahead of the final round, Richmond wingman Shane Edwards and Port midfielder Robbie Gray announced they would retire at the end of the season. Michael Hurley, Devon Smith, and David Mundy joined them in retirement soon after.
Edwards recently reached the 300 game tally against Brisbane and was a key contributor in the 2017, 2018 and 2020 Grand Finals. He was named All-Australian in 2018 and has finished high up in the club's best and fairest numerous times. Edwards, 33, wanted to go out on his own terms and said, “It is time for me to step aside and move on just as players did for me when I started. I am trying to play to the best of my ability ... but it is pretty obvious ... I won’t be helping us move forward next year. The club has given me everything, it has changed my life forever and I will always be connected to the Richmond Football Club. My teammates are what I will miss the most, we have been through so much together and always had fun ... I have won premierships and a few wooden spoons and finished everywhere in between as well.”