2022 AFL final: Week one schedule could give Richmond an edge

The AFL is finalizing its schedule for the finals, and a major decision could make life easier for elimination finalists like Richmond to go deep into September.

The AFL will decline the option of scheduling a Sunday finals in the first week of September, in a decision that gives elimination finalists, including Richmond, a full seven-day break.

The league’s final will be released on Sunday night but with 288 possible top-8 permutations it’s impossible for the league to pin down likely time slots, even for Geelong, seeded No. 1.

The Cats will host their qualifying finals at the MCG’s GMHBA Stadium due to reduced capacity, with Chief Executive Steve Hocking adamant he will not push for games at the club’s actual home ground while in charge.

If Sydney wins a home final, it will be set up for a Thursday night or Saturday afternoon game, with the AFL unwilling to play Friday and Saturday night NRL games at Allianz Stadium, which restarts the same weekend.

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Last year’s elimination final between Essendon and the Western Bulldogs took place on a Sunday as Covid regulations meant there was no bye before the final.

This meant the hounds were given a six-day rest the following week, leading to their nail-biting victory over Brisbane at the Gabba in what was a monumental feat to ignore travel concerns and defeat the lions.

This year, the AFL will seek to maximize rest days for all clubs, designating a Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night game for the first week.

It gives Richmond and teams ranked fifth through eighth confidence that they can win the flag without the downside of a six-day hiatus leading to a semi-final.

By grouping the 1v4 and 5v8 seeded, as well as 2v3 and 6v7, the league can ensure that each team has a seven-day break leading into week two of the finals.

Richmond has confirmed a top-eight finish in the Finals but cannot climb higher than seventh and is the only team guaranteed an elimination final leading into Round 23.

If Sydney beats St Kilda and maintains its percentage lead over Melbourne (just 0.6 per cent currently), it will host an SCG home final.

But the old Sydney Olympic Stadium in Homebush (now the remodeled Allianz Stadium) will reopen on Friday night of the week one AFL Finals.

The league has already decided it will not play Friday and Saturday night’s games at the Allianz Stadium in order to maximize Sydney’s attendance and ratings.

The weekend clashes at the new stadium are an NRLW opener on Friday leading to the Roosters’ clash against the Rabbitohs and Saturday night’s Wallabies rugby union test against South Africa.

The MCG will likely host two games in the first week, although there is a scenario where Sydney beats St Kilda, Melbourne beats Brisbane and Collingwood beats Carlton in round 23.

That would give Geelong and Sydney home qualifiers and Brisbane and Fremantle home eliminators, with just one week and one game in Melbourne.

The league last year scheduled its Saturday afternoon finals at 3:20 p.m. instead of a twilight duel, but in 2020 Saturday afternoon was a 4:40 p.m. game, resulting in an 8:10 p.m. final between West Coast and Collingwood.

Brownlow back to normal – almost

AFL stars of the grand finals could be forced to watch the Brownlow Medal broadcast in private rooms quarantined by the crowd of 1,000 to reduce their risk of Covid over the big final week.

The league has confirmed that Brownlow will return on Monday night of the big finals week at the Crown Palladium in Melbourne after back-to-back Sunday night telecasts.

But while the league is determined to get the night back to its familiar rhythms, there is a real possibility that a Brownlow contender could play in this Saturday’s grand final.

Clubs will be keen to keep their players away from a potential superspreader event during the finals series to ensure they are fit to play.

Melbourne’s Clayton Oliver ($6) and Christian Petracca ($8) could both face a situation where they are in a close race for the Brownlow medal days before a grand final.

The league will desperately ensure that all candidates are at the Palladium at the climax of the night or at their respective club events on the Interstate when their medals are presented.

The league has yet to turn its attention to the finer details, but one scenario would be that Melbourne or the rival Victorian team have their players in one of the adjacent private rooms at the Crown Palladium.

They would minimize her risk of contracting Covid but still make her available for interviews throughout the night on the TV show Seven and for the possible awarding of the medal.

Lachie Neale is the $2.50 favorite at TAB and while the Lions would hold a Brownlow medal function if they reach the Grand Final, she may need to be limited in size to reduce Covid risk.

The Lions have had several Covid outbreaks, including a multi-week event in which a half-strength team was beaten by Essendon, impacting the club’s two best hopes.

Clubs have been told it is up to them to ensure their players are safe from Covid, but the virus’ winter peak appears to be over.

The league this week fined five teams for failing to follow Covid testing procedures, with some players and coaches failing to record Covid tests or using team-mates’ photos of negative tests as proof they were Covid-free .

Originally released as AFL 2022 Finals: How Week One Could Play

https://www.codesports.com.au/afl/afl-2022-finals-fixture-how-week-one-could-play-out/news-story/c9a980b2925e1ffc72c44d3afb26eb3b?nk=e089758a40a63c002f2aac2b5198e665-1660807629 2022 AFL final: Week one schedule could give Richmond an edge

Nate Jones

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