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The Roar


AFL Oracle: A prelim finalist ALWAYS misses the eight the year after - so who will it be in 2024?

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6th March, 2024
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Someone always falls from grace.

There are a few unwritten rules when it comes to how an AFL ladder looks at the end of the year. Two teams typically fall out of the eight – while more often than not, one of their replacements comes from the bottom four or five.

One semi or elimination final loser takes the next step and reaches the last four… and like Newton’s law dictates, one of the preliminary finalists regresses the year after.

In 18 of the 24 seasons since the current finals system was introduced, a top-four team in one season has completely fallen out of the eight the next time around.

In 2023, it was reigning premier Geelong; the year before, Port Adelaide missed the cut; in 2021, it was another defending champ in Richmond falling by the wayside. In fact, the last time all four preliminary finalists made the eight the year after was 2014, when the Cats, Sydney, Fremantle and Hawthorn all achieved it – and two of those teams, the Dockers and Cats, ended up bowing out in straight sets anyway.

That makes this exercise fraught with danger: one of last year’s top four of GWS, Collingwood, Brisbane and Carlton – all among the heavy premiership favourites going into the season – are, if the numbers don’t lie, about to miss the finals.

Last year, I got this as wrong as I possibly could have – I backed the Magpies to be the ones to fall out. Whoopsie.


Then, the year before, I wussed out of predicting the Power to miss finals, only for exactly that to happen. Again, whoopsie.

Let’s hope this year, I’m slightly closer to the mark!


4th, 13-10, 107.1%, lost preliminary final

The Giants’ first season under Adam Kingsley was a tale of two halves. Beginning with promise but sporadic on-field results, taking a 4-8 record to the season midpoint, they gelled spectacularly to win nine of their last 11 home-and-away games and two finals on the road, with eventual premiers Collingwood (by a solitary point) the ones to end their season.

GWS have surely the most enviable list in the league: they’re spectacularly well stocked with key position talent, from the reborn and trouble-free Jesse Hogan as their spearhead, to the best key back in the game in Sam Taylor, to a ruckman in Kieren Briggs who was one of the AFL’s most improved players in 2023.

Nipping at their heels is a crop of talent perfectly suited to their roles: nippy small forwards Toby Bedford and Brent Daniels, the pacy outside run of Lachie Whitfield and Finn Callaghan, the inside grunt work of Tom Green and Stephen Coniglio, and the defensive strength of Jack Buckley, Connor Idun and Lachie Ash.


Plus they have a guy called Toby Greene, who I’ve heard goes okay too.

The Giants have made finals in six of the last eight years, and as well as they rebounded under Kingsley after a horror 2022, their premiership window can’t remain open indefinitely. For a group of stars who have come close enough to success to taste it but never achieved the ultimate prize, they will well know 2024 might be their best, and last, chance.

That’s why I’ve got the Giants as my premiership favourite going into 2024: by the end of the season, they were either the best team in the competition or near enough to it, and it’s hard to see a team as hungry for silverware as any other have that edge dulled by an off-season pondering a one-point preliminary final loss to the Magpies.

This is surely their time: and really, it has to be.

Prediction: 1st

Toby Greene celebrates kicking a goal.

Toby Greene. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)



3rd, 13-1-9, 113.3%, lost preliminary final

Like the Giants, the Blues’ 2023 started slowly before suddenly bursting to life in the second half of the season, and come September they were playing as well as anyone.

With higher expectations on them heading in, plus the weight of the spotlight that comes with being a big Victorian club, it felt like the turnaround was even more seismic at Ikon Park than at GWS; for a team seemingly bereft of life, on a six-match losing streak and with a 4-1-8 record to then win nine games in a row, storm into September and win two epic finals was simply stunning to watch.

Like the Giants, the Blues lack for little: when fit, Jacob Weitering is among the premier key defenders in the game, while in attack, Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay are an overwhelming one-two combination, even if the latter’s kicking is often erratic. Throw in arguably the most powerful midfield in the game, led by superstars Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh, and the Blues can – and did – bully any opposition in their path when at their best.

That all sounds exciting if you’re a Blues fan – but I’ve still got them as the likeliest of last year’s final four to crash out of the finals.


Depth will be a major issue to start the season, with Weitering and Walsh two significant names to be sidelined for the opening few rounds. For all their 2023 woes, the Blues did win or draw their first four games, allowing a fraction of wriggle room to right the ship later in the year – they might not have that same luxury this time around.

But more than that – things have been so dire for so long at Carlton that it’s hard to know what even the taste of finals success will do for this group. Will it spur them on knowing how close they are to glory… or will it give them reckless overconfidence unbefitting of a team which needed a Lazarus-like mid-season resurrection to reach September in the first place?

We know what we’re getting out of the Magpies, Brisbane and GWS – it’s nigh on impossible to have the same faith in the Blues. So for that reason, I’m landing them exactly where I had them in 2022… and where, as it happens, they finished that same year.

Prediction: 9th

Carlton players celebrate.

Carlton players celebrate. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)


2nd, 17-6, 123.1%, lost grand final


The curse of the flogged grand finalist seems real – but what of the teams who suffer an even greater heartbreak on the biggest stage of all?

For the Lions, who became just the second team in 17 years to lose a grand final by under a kick to Collingwood last year, that question remains up in the air. This is a team good enough to either finish in the top four, or make a preliminary final, for five consecutive seasons – but what goes up must come down, and like the Giants, it’s inevitable their flag window will close.

With that being said, it’s hard to see the Lions getting any worse in 2024: they’ve scarcely lost any personnel this off-season, with all 23 of their grand final team remaining on the list. With Tom Doedee arriving to bolster the defence, and another pre-season in the legs of Deven Robertson, Cam Rayner, Jaspa Fletcher and Darcy Wilmot – plus the mid-season return of Will Ashcroft – and if anything, Brisbane should be looking to improve.

Over the last two years, they’ve answered questions about their finals flakiness, winning four times in September to make up for a horror previous finals record under Chris Fagan.

Their defence is strong and multi-faceted, with Keidean Coleman Daniel Rich’s rebounding heir, Harris Andrews a monster stopper, and Brandon Starcevich as good a small defender as there is in the game when not playing on Bobby Hill.

In the midfield, they’re blessed with the reigning Brownlow Medallist in Lachie Neale; an on-ball bull as second fiddle in Josh Dunkley; the incredible talent of Hugh McCluggage; and more depth than you could care to name. The same goes for their forward line; with Joe Daniher having possibly a career-best year in 2023, Eric Hipwood a capable second fiddle and Charlie Cameron, Lincoln McCarthy and Zac Bailey nipping at their heels, there’s really no visible weakness.


The Lions could easily have pinched the flag off Collingwood last year, and I’m backing them to be in the flag race again up to their eyeballs this year: and one senses if they can reach another grand final, the wounding experience of 2023 is sure to hold them in good stead.

Prediction: 2nd

Joe Daniher.

Joe Daniher. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)


1st, 18-5, 127%, premiers

This time last year, I had Collingwood finishing outside my eight. Wrong.

This time last year, I thought the Magpies’ incredible run of wins in close games was mathematically certain to end. Wrong – they went 7-1 in matches decided by single-figure margins, including all three finals.


I won’t be making that mistake again, with the Pies firmly locked into my top four – the only question is, how high should they be?

Winning back-to-back flags is tough, although it’s notable that with Brisbane, Hawthorn and Richmond all achieving it in the 21st century, it’s not quite as far-fetched as some would claim. And with the only major personnel change Jack Ginnivan’s exodus and Lachie Schultz’s arrival, it’s fair to say the Magpies of 2024 might be a touch stronger than the premiers of 2023.

The problem is that, if they weren’t before, the Pies are officially the hunted now. Every team will have been studying their blueprint in the off-season, looking for the best bits to steal and mould to their own game plans… and how to stop it from hurting them.

Does that mean closer attention to Nick Daicos in 2024? Designated blockers on Darcy Moore down back? More effort going into unlocking and dismantling Craig McRae’s on-ball set-up? We’ll only know for sure when the real stuff begins, but for the most part premiers need to tweak things slightly to remain ahead of the pack.

These Pies are surely not as overwhelmingly talented as the Lions or Hawks three-peaters of recent years; and I’d argue that the competition is stiffer than when the Tigers won back to back flags in 2019 and 2020, the latter in a COVID year where the chaos of the competition worked perfectly to their advantage.

That makes me reluctant to have them higher than two teams whose hunger for success can’t be questioned, with arguably more talented lists than the Pies’, in GWS and Brisbane.


Still, if the Pies do end up making the top four, or even the top eight, then no one is going to want to play them when it’s all on the line in September. This is a team that believe it can win from anywhere.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Bobby Hill of the Magpies celebrates a goal during the 2023 AFL Grand Final match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Brisbane Lions at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 30, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

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

Prediction: 3rd

AFL Oracle’s predicted ladder for 2024

  1. GWS
  2. Brisbane
  3. Collingwood
  4. Geelong
  5. St Kilda
  6. Melbourne
  7. Port Adelaide
  8. Hawthorn
  9. Carlton
  10. Sydney
  11. Adelaide
  12. Western Bulldogs
  13. Fremantle
  14. Gold Coast
  15. Richmond
  16. North Melbourne
  17. Essendon
  18. West Coast