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The finals equation: Every AFL club's Round 23 best and worst case scenario

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18th August, 2019
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There’s only one round left in the 2019 AFL season, yet – particularly near the top of the ladder – things are still pretty volatile and several clubs have huge gaps between their best or worst scenarios depending on how the cards fall in Round 23.

Hate math? Don’t worry, we’ve done the calculations for you to work out just high your club could rise, or how low they could fall – plus my own guaranteed-to-be-wrong tips for where each club will fall and what that means for the finals series.

1. Brisbane Lions

16 wins, 5 losses, 120.9 per cent
vs Richmond Tigers, MCG, Sunday 3:20pm

On a nine-match winning streak and only need one more to make the minor premiership a certainty. Unfortunately, they come up against Richmond, who are themselves on an eight-match streak – and must travel to the MCG.

Not all is lost if they don’t get up – the Lions would only need one of Geelong or West Coast to lose, or to not have too big of a margin in either their match or the one between the Hawks and Eagles, and they would still finish top two.

If they lose by a decent margin to Richmond, say ten goals, and the Cats and Eagles both win (or the Lions lose a close one while West Coast thrash the Hawks), they’ll slip to third and need to travel in week one.

Predicted finish: 2nd. Home qualifying final vs West Coast.

2. Geelong Cats

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15 wins, 6 losses, 132.4 per cent
vs Carlton Blues, GMHBA, Saturday 4:35pm

Only need a win to guarantee a top-two spot and a “home” final at the MCG in week one, and as much as Carlton’s been in good form lately, they’d expect to get that done.

Highest possible finish is back on top if Brisbane lose to Richmond and they defeat Carlton, but it’s debatable whether this is actually their ‘best’ possible outcome.

That circumstance would mean they probably play Richmond at the MCG in week one of finals, whereas if the Tigers lose to Brisbane then more likely they’re hosting West Coast and have a genuine Victorian advantage.

Could hypothetically drop as low as fourth if they lose to the Blues. If they do, they’re probably travelling to Queensland or WA in week one.

Tom Hawkins

It’s been a rough few weeks for the Cats. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images )

Mathematically speaking, could finish fifth if they lose to Carlton by around 275 points while West Coast, Richmond, Collingwood all win. Somewhat unlikely.

Predicted finish: 1st. Home qualifying final vs Richmond.

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3. West Coast Eagles

15 wins, 6 losses, 115.7 per cent
vs Hawthorn Hawks, Optus, Saturday 8:10pm

Still in with a shot at the minor premiership, but would need things to go their way a bit – need Brisbane to lose to Richmond, ideally by about ten goals, and Geelong to lose to Carlton – and would of course need to win themselves.

That’s unlikely but what’s a bit more realistic is that at least one of those things happens and a win over the Hawks is enough for them to sneak into the top two and get a home final. If they beat Hawthorn by ten goals or so, they don’t need to worry about Richmond-Brisbane margin, so long as Brisbane lose.

Could drop out of the top four if they lose to the Hawks, if Collingwood also beat Essendon.

Predicted finish: 3rd. Away qualifying final vs Brisbane.

4. Richmond Tigers

15 wins, 6 losses, 112.5 per cent
vs Brisbane Lions, MCG, Sunday 3:20pm

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Hypothetically could still win the minor premiership if: they beat the Brisbane by about 150 points, Geelong lose to Carlton, and West Coast either lose to Hawthorn or at least don’t beat Hawthorn by more than around 90 points.

That is, to say the least, unlikely. Somewhat more realistic is that they look to beat Brisbane by ten goals or so, Geelong lose to Carlton, and West Coast lose to Hawthorn or only win by a small margin, and they sneak into second.

Kane Lambert

Richmond have hit form at the right time. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Still not very likely. Their most realistic goal would be to finished third or fourth, which they’ll do if they get a win over Brisbane, or if they lose to Brisbane but Collingwood also lose to Essendon on Friday night.

If so, they’d be dreaming of another qualifying final against Geelong at the MCG, which is a very real possibility – if they beat the Lions while Geelong and West Coast both win, and they don’t overtake the Eagles on percentage, this will happen.

Worst case scenario is they lose to the Lions and while Collingwood beat Essendon on Friday night – then they’d slip to fifth and lose the double chance.

Predicted finish: 4th. Away qualifying final vs Geelong.

5. Collingwood Magpies

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14 wins, 7 losses, 117.8 per cent
vs Essendon Bombers, MCG, Friday 7:50pm

Their fate is not entirely in their own hands unfortunately, as realistically they require one of West Coast or Richmond to slip up and they won’t know going into their Friday night match whether or not that’s going to happen.

If they manage to defeat the Dons on Friday night then they will overtake either of those sides if they lose. They could even mathematically jump ahead of Geelong if, say, they beat Essendon by 250 points while the Cats lose to the Blues.

Realistically if the Tigers and Eagles both win then they’re going to finish fifth regardless of how their match this week goes.

Predicted finish: 5th. Home elimination final vs Essendon.

6. GWS Giants

12 wins, 9 losses, 111.5 per cent
vs Gold Coast Suns, Metricon, Saturday 7:25pm

So long as they beat the Suns, which they obviously should, it’ll be sixth place and a home elimination final for them, most likely hosting Essendon.

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If they somehow drop one against Gold Coast then they’d be a chance of sinking to seventh and having to travel to play the Bombers in week one, should Essendon beat Collingwood on Friday night.

GWS Giants fans cheer at an AFL match.

GWS Giants cheer squad. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

They could even mathematically drop behind Essendon if both clubs lose… assuming Gold Coast beat them by at least 300 points. Piece of cake.

Predicted finish: 6th. Home elimination final vs Western Bulldogs.

7. Essendon Bombers

12 wins, 9 losses, 95.8 per cent
vs Collingwood Magpies, MCG, Friday 7:50pm

Finals spot is guaranteed after a win on the weekend, but could theoretically finish between sixth or eighth depending on this weekend’s results.

Finishing sixth means beating Collingwood on Friday night then crossing their fingers and hoping all GWS players are felled by a congenital heart defect moments before they could step onto the field.

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If they lose to Collingwood, then they’ll slip to eighth if the Bulldogs beat Adelaide.

Predicted finish: 8th. Away elimination final vs Collingwood.

8. Western Bulldogs

11 wins, 10 losses, 105.6 per cent
vs Adelaide Crows, MARS, Sunday 1:10pm

Pretty simple equation: win and in. If the Dogs beat the Crows then they’ll play finals, and they’ll finish either seventh or eighth depending on Essendon’s result versus Collingwood on Friday night.

Lose to the Crows and they could still make it in if they keep the margin to around three goals or less and either Port Adelaide and Hawthorn both lose, or Hawthorn lose and Port Adelaide only win by a couple of points.

More likely if they lose, they’ll miss, and could finish as low as eleventh if Port and the Hawks both win.

Predicted finish: 7th. Away elimination final vs GWS.

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9. Hawthorn Hawks

10 wins, 11 losses, 106.6 per cent
vs West Coast Eagles, Optus, Saturday 8:10pm

Although they’re the closest of the teams trying to work their way in, they’ve got a mountain to climb. First, there’s the difficult task of taking on West Coast at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.

Win that, and they will still be relying on Adelaide to beat the Bulldogs on Sunday – but, not beat them by so much as to overtake the Hawks on percentage. They’d then also need Port Adelaide to lose, or not win by enough to overtake them on percentage.

A fine line and you’d expect they’ll probably fall at the first hurdle. A likely loss to West Coast could see them drop to 11th if their rivals all get up.

Predicted finish: 10th.

10. Adelaide Crows

10 wins, 11 losses, 103.0 per cent
vs Western Bulldogs, MARS, Sunday 1:10pm

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They have arguably the most uncomplicated way into the final eight of the teams trying to force their way in, and unlike the Hawks and Port, don’t need to rely so much on other results going their way.

If they can beat the Bulldogs by a margin of at least four goals or so, that’ll be enough to overtake the Dogs on the ladder. Then, they only need the Hawks and Port to either lose, or win but not beat them on percentage.

Going to take a significant reversal in form though. If they lose, they could slip to 11th depending on how the teams around them go.

Predicted finish: 11th.

11. Port Adelaide Power

10 wins, 111 losses, 103.0 per cent
vs Fremantle Dockers, Adelaide Oval, Sunday 4:40pm

A pretty dicey position but unlike the other teams vying for finals, they should know whether or not they’re a chance by the time their match starts at least.

Adelaide vs Bulldogs will be over by then and if the Crows have won (it’ll feel strange barracking for that…) then they’re every chance to squeeze in if they can put a good margin on the Dockers.

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Working in their favour is that, of the teams hoping to sneak in, they’ve probably got the best hope of a hypothetical percentage booster. Playing at home also.

Won’t drop any lower than they are right now if they lose.

Predicted finish: 9th.

Michael Voss

(AAP Image/Ben Macmahon)

12. North Melbourne Kangaroos

9 wins, 12 losses, 99.1 per cent
vs Melbourne Demons, Blundstone Arena, Saturday 2:10pm

Not a mathematical chance to play finals from this position, and realistically you wouldn’t expect them to care too much where it is between 12th and 14th that they finish.

Instead this week should be all about feeding as many goals at they can into the hands of Ben Brown – an easy enough task, against the Dees. Bring home that Coleman Medal, baby.

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Predicted finish: 12th.

13. Fremantle Dockers

9 wins, 12 losses, 94.0 per cent
vs Port Adelaide Power, Adelaide Oval, Sunday 4:40pm

May have the chance to play the spoiler against Port Adelaide, but there’s every chance Port’s finals window will already be closed before the match starts. Will finish somewhere in the 12th-14th range.

Predicted finish: 13th.

14. St Kilda Saints

9 wins, 12 losses, 85.4 per cent
vs Sydney Swans, SCG, Saturday 1:45pm

As per Freo and North, they’re bound to finish somewhere in the 12th-14th range. Very winnable game against the Swans, but at the same time, Sydney will be farewelling some greats at home and might get up for the game emotionally.

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Predicted finish: 14th.

15. Sydney Swans

7 wins, 14 losses, 94.9 per cent
vs St Kilda Saints, SCG, Saturday 1:45pm

No way out of the bottom four now, but the Swans need to win if they want to make it absolutely certain they won’t be overtaken by Carlton.

Even if they lose, they’d still need Carlton to beat Geelong for that to happen – or both teams lose, but Sydney do so by 90 points or so.

Realistically, they’re unlikely to rise or fall regardless of their result.

Predicted finish: 15th.

16. Carlton Blues

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7 wins, 14 losses, 87.2 per cent
vs Geelong Cats, GMHBA, Saturday 4:35pm

Would have their eyes on taking a big scalp to finish the season, with the knowledge that doing so could see them move above the Swans on the ladder and make the Liam Stocker trade – where they’ve already claimed a moral victory – look even better.

Realistically they would also need the Swans to lose to the Saints for that to happen, unless they manage to beat Geelong by at least 180 points or so.

Most likely staying put regardless of result, but would love to keep building that positive momentum.

Predicted finish: 16th.

17. Melbourne Demons

5 wins, 16 losses, 77.9 per cent
vs North Melbourne Kangaroos, Blundstone Arena, Saturday 2:10pm

Can’t possibly go up or down the ladder regardless of their result this weekend.

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Predicted finish: 17th.

Angus Brayshaw

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

18. Gold Coast Suns

3 wins, 18 losses, 61.6 per cent
vs GWS Giants, Metricon, Saturday 7:25pm

Luckily for them, the season will be over not a moment too spoon.

Predicted finish: 18th.

All times are AEST.