It was an opening to the finals like few have seen before with tight finishes, upsets and drama aplenty.
We recap the qualifying and elimination finals and look at how the landscape has changed for the race to the premiership.
BRISBANE v RICHMOND
The Lions had all the pressure on them against a team that has won three of the past five premierships. Brisbane put aside finals scars of the past with an epic performance from Lachie Neale in the midfield. Ultimately it came down to the power forwards at either end, with Tiger Tom Lynch narrowly missing a shot that was subject to a controversial video review before Joe Daniher sealed a goal at the other end to secure a semi finals berth for the Lions.
The Tigers are left to look ahead to next year, and have already been the talk of the town in upcoming trade talk, making a big offer to GWS midfielder Tim Taranto. They will be one to watch in 2023.
Melbourne v Sydney
A strong start from the reigning premiers wasn’t enough to hold out the dependable Swans who came away with a 22-point win. An injury to star Christian Petracca didn’t help the Demons who now face a rampaging Brisbane. Clayton Oliver was his usual dependable self in the midfield with 29 disposals. At the same time, the Swans spread the scoring around in a quiet night for Lance Franklin, but Will Hayward continued to press his case as one of the Swans most important players.
Both teams remain strong premiership contenders, with the Demons now sitting at an eye-catching $5 to go back-to-back, guaranteed to play all their remaining games at the MCG.
GEELONG v COLLINGWOOD
Collingwood continued its run of exciting close finishes but found themselves in the unusual position of actually losing. Nick and Josh Daicos were sensational for the Magpies who are still in the hunt following a gallant loss, though the loss of Taylor Adams will hurt them.
Tom Atkins was an unlikely hero for Geelong, while Gary Rohan silenced his doubters with possibly his best finals performance to date, finishing with three goals, as did teammate Jeremy Cameron. The Cats have plenty of depth and selection headaches as they sit in the box seat now to finally deliver Chris Scott his second premiership
FREMANTLE v WESTERN BULLDOGS
After three cracking games to kick off the finals, the footy world was almost ready for a one-sided contest, which looked set to be the case when the Bulldogs got as far as 41 points in front in the second quarter, only for a rampant Fremantle to run out 13-point winners. Caleb Serong and Andrew Brayshaw led the way for the home team while the Bulldogs were left to ponder their third elimination finals defeat in three years at the same ground where they conceded a third quarter lead in last year’s Grand Final.
Fremantle have been one of the competition’s most dependable teams for the year and while they fell just short of a double chance, an inspiring win such as this could be the catalyst for their first flag ($21).