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Wildcard round addition to finals series, Andrew Dillon to speak with club CEOs, 10 teams in finals, latest news

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The AFL will on Tuesday ask the 18 club chief executives whether it supports the introduction of a wildcard round, expanding the finals series.

The Herald Sun’s Jon Ralph reported CEO-elect Andrew Dillon would speak to the club bosses during a wide-ranging meeting at Werribee Mansion across Tuesday and Wednesday.

Following the success of Gather Round, the AFL wants to consider more innovative fixture ideas which could include allowing more teams into the finals series.

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The NBA has found major success with its play-in tournament, allowing 10 teams in each conference to play off for post-season spots – the top six, plus the winners of a mini-tournament between seventh to 10th.

Using the pre-finals bye weekend the AFL could hold two ‘wildcard’ finals, between 7th and 10th as well as 8th and 9th, forcing those teams to win their way into the traditional final eight.

Technically these would not be ‘wildcard’ teams, as that usually refers to non-traditional qualifying teams – such as non-division winners in the NFL – but just extra finalists.

Either way the addition would give the teams who finish fifth and sixth an extra advantage, as they along with the top four would enjoy the pre-finals bye.

“Andrew Dillon will break bread with the club CEOs tomorrow; one of the agenda items is fixture innovation. So he wants to throw up this wildcard weekend, what would it look like, what would the bye situation look like?” Jon Ralph told Fox Footy’s On the Couch on Monday evening.

“The league says it’s just a thought bubble but they’ve just brought it in for the VFL this season, it’s gone massive gangbusters in the NBA.

“At its simplest, eighth vs ninth play each other, winner gets into September in that pre-finals bye – massive attendance, massive ratings, I like it.”

HOW A WILDCARD WEEKEND COULD LOOK IN A FINALS SERIES

Using 2023 season dates and current ladder positions

Weekend of August 25-27

Final home and away round

Weekend of September 1-3

First Wildcard Final: #7 Western Bulldogs vs #10 Carlton at the MCG

Second Wildcard Final: #8 Essendon vs #9 GWS Giants at the MCG

Top six teams have a bye

Weekend of September 8-10

First Qualifying Final: #1 Collingwood vs #4 Melbourne at the MCG

Second Qualifying Final: #2 Port Adelaide vs #3 Brisbane Lions at Adelaide Oval

First Elimination Final: #5 Geelong vs lowest-ranked wildcard winner at the MCG

Second Elimination Final: #6 St Kilda vs highest-ranked wildcard winner at the MCG

Weekend of September 15-17

Semi Finals (as normal)

Weekend of September 22-24

Preliminary Finals (as normal)

September 30

Grand Final

The format in the example above is being used in the 2023 VFL season, which features 21 teams.

‘Port would be keen on Grundy’ | 01:13

Melbourne great Garry Lyon, who has spoken about the idea for many years, supported it by saying: “7-10 Friday night, 8-9 Saturday night. Makes it hard if they do get in, but gives them a chance to play again.”

Collingwood champion Nathan Buckley added: “With the (current) ladder looking as squeezed as it is, it sort of warrants that you’ve got to win that wildcard one to get in.”

GWS coach Adam Kingsley told Fox Footy’s AFL 360 he was “interested” in the idea but North Melbourne caretaker coach Brett Ratten said he was against it.

“If you finish 7th, you might be three games ahead of the 8th team, and next minute you’re fighting for your life. I think that’s quite unfair,” Ratten said.

“The bit about our game, it’s a marathon, and you’ve got a list and you have to keep building each week and winning games of footy. And if you deserve after the last round of the home and away, you deserve to be there.”

Expanding the finals to 10 teams could also allow the AFL to revert back to the scenario seen through the 1990s and 2000s where half of the league (eight of 16 teams) qualified for the post-season, with Tasmania’s impending entry and a likely 20th team to follow.

Adelaide veteran Paul Seedsman backed the wildcard idea on social media.

“Love this. Hopefully comes to fruition sooner rather than later,” he tweeted.

“Imagine if it came in this year with 5th-14th within 2 games of each other. Would be an unreal start to what is shaping to be an elite finals series coming up.”


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