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Dees’ top-two hopes rise, Lions all but out of top four

With nine games of the home-and-away season to go, the 2022 finals series is far from set in stone just yet.

Six teams remain in contention for precious top-four finishes, ensuring the double chance; while at the other end of the eight, Carlton and the Western Bulldogs will jostle for the final spot in September all the way to Sunday.

From dream scenarios, biggest nightmares and everything in between, here is how the ladder is taking shape throughout Round 23:

1. Geelong

17 wins, 4 losses, 139.7%

Plays: West Coast @ GMHBA Stadium, Saturday 4:35pm

If they win: 1st

If they lose: 1st

The Cats wrapped up the minor premiership in style with a 60-point win over Gold Coast in Round 22. Safe atop the ladder, two games and percentage clear of Sydney, it’s all about the ‘home’ qualifying final at the MCG now.

However, the Cats would certainly be keen to keep their winning streak going – heading into September off the back of a shock loss to the Eagles wouldn’t exactly make for ideal preparation. And the controversial pre-finals bye will likely stop them from resting too many key players, which would see them play just one match in a month should the Cats win their qualifying final.

Ultimately, though, Chris Scott’s men have earned the right to sit back, relax, and have a light training run at the Cattery on Saturday.

Prediction: 1st

Tyson Stengle celebrates a goal.

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

2. Melbourne

16 wins, 6 losses, 127.7%

Defeated Brisbane by 58 points

Best-case scenario: 2nd if Sydney lose or fail to win by approximately 54 points

Worst-case scenario: 3rd if Sydney win by approximately 54 points or more.


With top four on the line against Brisbane at the Gabba, the Demons were at their scintillating best, locking away the double chance with an incredible 58-point win.

The shock thumping has left Sydney with work to do; with the Dees’ percentage rocketing from 127.7 to 130.5, now 2.2 ahead of the Swans, they will now need to beat St Kilda by roughly nine goals to have a home final at the MCG.

Should the Swans lose, the Dees could find themselves facing Collingwood, Fremantle, or even the Swans after all at the MCG; but even if they’re forced to head to Sydney, the reigning premiers look BACK.

Prediction: 2nd (3rd at start of round)

3. Sydney

15 wins, 6 losses, 128.3%

Plays: St Kilda @ Marvel Stadium, 4:40pm

If they win: 2nd, provided they beat St Kilda by approximately 54 points

If they lose: 3rd if Collingwood and Fremantle both lose; 4th if one of them loses; 5th if both win, 6th if both win and their percentage takes a hammering

The silver lining for the Swans out of Melbourne’s thumping win over Brisbane is that, with a percentage gap of 9 over the Lions, falling to sixth is now extremely unlikely.

The bad news is that they’ll now need to thump St Kilda on Sunday to retake a home qualifying final against the Demons; knowing how much they’ll need to win by isn’t so much of an advantage anymore.

At the very least, a Swans win will seal up third; but a loss will leave them vulnerable to be leapfrogged by Fremantle, who should take care of GWS, and Collingwood, who are even-money odds to defeat Carlton.

The Swans still have the top four in their own hands; but their path to a premiership just got a little tougher.

Prediction: 3rd (2nd at start of round)

4. Brisbane

15 wins, 7 losses, 119.3%

Defeated by Melbourne by 58 points

Best-case scenario: 4th if Collingwood and Fremantle both lose

Worst-case scenario: 6th if Collingwood and Fremantle both win

Regardless of where they wind up when Round 23 concludes, the Lions’ embarrassing loss to Melbourne on Friday night has taken an axe to their premiership credentials.

From dreaming of a home qualifying final heading into that match, the very best the Lions can hope for now is to sneak into fourth, and face Geelong with the double chance.

But the reality is that both of Fremantle and Collingwood are unlikely to lose; should both win, however, it will mean Richmond at the Gabba in an elimination final.


Prediction: 5th

5. Collingwood

15 wins, 6 losses, 104.4%

Plays: Carlton @ the MCG, Sunday 3:20pm

If they win: 3rd if Sydney lose, 4th if Sydney win

If they lose: 5th if Fremantle lose, 6th if Fremantle win

The Pies’ percentage is basically one fewer win at this point, which makes my job a lot easier. So thanks, narrow wins!

The Magpies head to the MCG on Sunday already knowing half the stakes at play: they are guaranteed top four ahead of Brisbane, and will know if the Dockers have got enough done to force them to win or finish sixth.

They will also know if Richmond have, as expected, got the job done against Essendon to lock in seventh, or whether losing to Carlton will see the Pies face the Blues again in week one of the final. Either would make the city of Melbourne just about unbearable for the next week and a half.

The Pies have more to gain with a win than any other side in the eight, and just as much to lose. Beat the Blues, and a shock top-four finish, a precious double chance, and a likely shot at Geelong at the ‘G, is their reward. Lose, and she gets ugly.

Over to you, Craig McRae.

Prediction: 6th

6. Fremantle

14 wins, 1 draw, 6 losses, 116.4%

Plays: GWS @ Manuka Oval, Saturday 1:45pm

If they win: 3rd if Sydney AND Collingwood lose, 4th if Sydney OR Collingwood lose, 5th if both win

If they lose: 6th

It seemed at the time that Richmond were the big losers out of their Round 20 draw with Fremantle; now, it’s seemingly like it’s the Dockers who have cost themselves more.

Freo could have been in the Pies’ position right now, and guaranteed top four with a Round 23 win. Instead, they’ll need the Magpies or Sydney to lose as well to earn the double chance.

Nevertheless, the Dockers will still be out to beat the struggling GWS, and ask the question of the Magpies and Swans and retain their strong form leading into a first September since 2015.

From there, it’s up to the footy gods whether ‘Flagmantle’ will happen.

Prediction: 4th

7. Richmond

12 wins, 1 draw, 8 losses, 118.7%

Plays: Essendon @ the MCG, Saturday 7:25pm

If they win: 7th

If they lose: 7th if Carlton loses, 8th if Carlton wins

After their draw with Freo and incredible losses to Gold Coast and North Melbourne, the Tigers needed to win three of their last four to be locked into September. Tick, tick, and tick.

Finals secured, it’s now all about whether they face sixth or fifth in week one. A Bombers outfit on the verge of collapse seems like an ideal opponent to gear up for finals, ideally avoid any major injuries, and wait and see who they play.

With a Tigers win, Brisbane will be very, very nervously watching Collingwood play on Sunday. Nobody in their right mind is going to want to play Richmond this September.

Prediction: 7th

Dustin Martin

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

8. Carlton

12 wins, 9 losses, 108.8%

Plays: Collingwood @ the MCG, Sunday 3:20pm

If they win: 7th if Richmond loses, 8th if Richmond wins

If they lose: 8th if the Western Bulldogs lose OR win but fail to make up percentage differential, 9th if not

The Blues had one foot in September when Charlie Curnow gave them an eight-point lead in the dying minutes against Melbourne.

Instead, long-suffering fans will have to wait until at least 3:30pm on Sunday to know whether their nine-year finals drought is at an end.

For starters, the Blues will be donning brown and gold early on Sunday, hoping Hawthorn can take down the Bulldogs and get them in without needing to lift a finger. (Woo-hoo! Default!)

If the Bulldogs win by more than about three goals, removing their current 0.9 percentage disadvantage, then it becomes simple for the Blues: beat the Pies and they’re in, lose and they’re gone.

But if the Dogs win in a tight game, then the Blues can still go down to the Magpies and squeak into the finals – but by gee, the lines will be painstakingly tight.

Ultimately, the Blues showed tremendous ticker and spirit to come so close to Melbourne in Round 22, and with one last chance to get the four points they needed, I’m backing them to get it done.

Prediction: 8th

9. Western Bulldogs

11 wins, 10 losses, 107.9%

Plays: Hawthorn @ University of Tasmania Stadium, Sunday 1:10pm

If they win: 8th if Carlton loses AND they overcome the percentage differential, 9th if not

If they lose: 9th if St Kilda loses, 10th if St Kilda wins

The Bulldogs were ghastly in scraping over the line against GWS in Round 22, and while it has still left them with a serious chance of finals action, they failed to remove percentage from the equation.

It won’t matter if either the Dogs lose to Hawthorn on Sunday in Launceston – sayonara finals if that happens – or if they win by more than about three goals – over to you then, Carlton. Anything in between there, and Dogs fans will be scrambling for the calculator as the Blues take on Collingwood.

The Dogs still need plenty to go right, and while both individual results remain odds-on to happen, having everything go their way might still prove too far. Their one-point loss to Adelaide in Round 6 now feels oh so crucial.

Prediction: 9th

10. St Kilda

11 wins, 10 losses, 100.1%

Plays: Sydney @ Marvel Stadium, Sunday 4:40pm

If they win: 8th if Carlton get mauled by Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs lose or a top-eight team is found guilty of a club-wide doping program, 9th if one of those things happen, 10th if neither of those things happen

If they lose: 10th

The Saints’ percentage gap to Carlton sits at 8.7, meaning to make finals, they’d need to see Collingwood beat the Blues by 70-odd points, then do the same to the Swans, AND see the Bulldogs either lose or win narrowly.

Yeah. It ain’t happening.

Prediction: 10th

Dejected Carlton players walk from the ground after losing to Melbourne.

Dejected Carlton players walk from the ground after losing to Melbourne. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The Roar’s predicted top eight

  1. Geelong (18-4)
  2. Melbourne (16-6)
  3. Sydney (16-6)
  4. Fremantle (15-1-6)
  5. Brisbane (15-7)
  6. Collingwood (15-7)
  7. Richmond (13-1-8)
  8. Carlton (13-9)

The Roar’s predicted Finals Week One

Qualifying Final: Geelong vs Fremantle

Qualifying Final: Melbourne vs Sydney

Elimination Final: Brisbane vs Carlton

Elimination Final: Collingwood vs Richmond

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