AFL finals system
The current AFL finals system began to be used in 2000 as its end-of-season championship playoff tournament. The highest-ranked eight teams in the regular season standings participate in a four-week tournament, with two teams eliminated in each of the first three weeks. The grand final is played in the fourth week between the two remaining teams, with the winning team awarded the premiership.
The system is designed to give the top four teams an easier road to the Grand Final than the second four teams. The top four teams need to win only two finals to reach the Grand Final, while the second four teams need to win three. The two winning teams of the top four receive a bye in the second week of the playoff and then play at home in the third week, while the two losing teams play at home in the second week.
The AFL introduced the system in 2000 to address several perceived issues with the McIntyre Final Eight System that had been in use from 1994–1999. The system has also been adopted by the Victorian Football League and the National Rugby League. Similar systems are used by Super League, and were previously used by the Australian Rugby League in the 1995 and 1996 seasons.
|Qualifying / Elimination finals||Semi-finals||Preliminary finals||Grand final|
|QF1: 1st Qualifying Final|
|4||4th||Away||SF1: 1st Semi-Final|
|Loser of QF1||Home|
|EF1: 1st Elimination Final||Winner of EF1||Away||PF1: 1st Preliminary Final|
|5||5th||Home||Winner of QF1||Home|
|8||8th||Away||Winner of SF2||Away||GF: AFL Grand Final - MCG|
|Winner of PF1|
|EF2: 2nd Elimination Final||PF2: 2nd Preliminary Final||Winner of PF2|
|6||6th||Home||Winner of SF1||Away|
|7||7th||Away||SF2: 2nd Semi-Final||Winner of QF2||Home|
|Winner of EF2||Away|
|QF2: 2nd Qualifying Final||Loser of QF2||Home|
- 1st Qualifying Final: 1st ranked team hosts 4th ranked team
- 2nd Qualifying Final: 2nd ranked team hosts 3rd ranked team
- 1st Elimination Final: 5th ranked team hosts 8th ranked team
- 2nd Elimination Final: 6th ranked team hosts 7th ranked team
The eight finalists are split into two groups for the opening week of the Finals Series. The top four teams have the best chance of winning the premiership and play the two Qualifying Finals. The winners get a bye through to Week Three of the tournament to play home Preliminary Finals, while the losers play home Semi-Finals in Week Two. The bottom four teams play the two Elimination Finals, where the winners advance to Week Two away games and the losers' seasons are over.
There is a game on Friday Night, Saturday Afternoon, Saturday Night and Sunday Afternoon.
- 1st Semi-final: Loser of 1st QF hosts winner of 1st EF
- 2nd Semi-final: Loser of 2nd QF hosts winner of 2nd EF
One semi final is played on a Friday Night and the other is played on a Saturday Night.
- 1st Preliminary Final: Winner of 1st QF hosts winner of 2nd SF
- 2nd Preliminary Final: Winner of 2nd QF hosts winner of 1st SF
One Preliminary final is played on a Friday Night and the other is played on Saturday, usually in the Afternoon or at Twilight if one or more of the teams playing is an non-Victorian team, or at Night, if both teams are Victorian. However the final has not had two Victorian teams playing it in since 2010, and based on positive Twilight timeslot experiments in 2012 and 2014, it is unlikely that any future preliminary finals involving two Victorian teams will be played on Saturday night.
- Grand Final: Winner of 1st PF meets Winner of 2nd PF at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on a Saturday Afternoon.
The AFL's contract with the Melbourne Cricket Club requires that at least ten finals matches (excluding Grand Finals) are played at the MCG every five years. This means an average of two finals must be played at the venue per year, plus each Grand Final. This is not normally expected to be a problem, but in the event that the non-Victorian clubs dominate the competition, the AFL would be forced to schedule a non-Victorian team's home match at the MCG to reach this quota.
This contract was put together in 2005 after significant criticism of the previous contract from 1992, which required that at least one final be played at the MCG during every week of the finals. This meant that in the event that interstate clubs were to host both semi-finals or both preliminary finals (the preliminary final prior to 1994), one of these matches would be moved to the MCG to meet this quota; this happened in 1993 (Preliminary Final, Adelaide v Essendon), 1996 (First Semi-Final, West Coast v Essendon), 1999 (First Semi-Final, West Coast v Carlton), 2002 (Second Semi-Final, Adelaide v Melbourne) and 2004 (Second Preliminary Final, Brisbane v Geelong).
Finals in Victoria are usually played at the MCG, regardless of whether or not the home team normally plays its home games there. If Victoria is to host two finals on one day, the lowest-drawing final will be moved to Docklands Stadium, except in the event that Geelong is hosting a low-drawing opponent, the second final will be moved to Kardinia Park.
The Grand Final must be played at the MCG until at least 2034, and since 1902 has only been played elsewhere in 1924 (because no Grand Final was held in the round-robin finals series used that year), 1942-1945 (when the ground was occupied by the military during World War Two), and 1991 (when part of the ground was being renovated).
Advantages for ladder positions
Under this finals system, the final eight teams are broken up into four groups of two. Each group of two earns one extra benefit over the teams beneath it. These benefits are home ground finals and the double-chance, whereby a first-week loss will not eliminate the team from the finals. Note that the "home" designations may be irrelevant for games played between teams from the same state – almost all finals games played between two Victorian teams will be held at the MCG, regardless of the "home" team's home ground (see above for details).
In the first week, the system also rewards (or penalizes) teams based on their season performances, as they are seeded within each group of four based on their ladder positions. The two top seeds in each group have the benefit of playing teams that are seeded lower. The top seed has a benefit over the second seed, in that it plays the lowest-seeded team (1 v 4 and 5 v 8). The second seed has a benefit over the third seed, in that it plays a team lower-seeded than itself (2 v 3 and 6 v 7). The third seed and fourth (bottom) seed must play teams that are seeded higher than themselves. However, the third seed has the benefit of playing the easier of those two matches (against the second seed), while the fourth seed must play the top seed (3 plays 2, while 4 plays 1; and 7 plays 6 while 8 plays 5). After the first week, teams are not re-seeded based on their finals performances, and ladder positions become irrelevant.
Historically, this finals system employed by the AFL has greatly advantaged the top four teams. From 2000-2015, on only five of a total of 32 losing qualifying finalists have failed to win their semi-finals.
First and second
First and Second receive the double-chance, and will play their first two finals matches at home: their qualifying final, and then either a semi-final if they lose their qualifying final or a preliminary final if they win their qualifying final. They need to win two finals to reach the Grand Final.
Third and fourth
Third and Fourth also receive the double-chance, but receive only one finals match at home: either a semi-final if they lose their qualifying final or a preliminary final if they win their qualifying final. They need to win two finals to reach the Grand Final.
Fifth and sixth
Fifth and Sixth receive one home final: their elimination final. They need to win three finals to reach the Grand Final and are eliminated on any loss.
Seventh and eighth
Seventh and Eighth receive no home finals. They need to win all three finals to reach the Grand Final and are eliminated on any loss.
Under the current AFL finals system (and under the previous AFL finals system since 1991), a game during the first three weeks of the finals cannot finish in a draw; if two teams are tied at the end of regulation time, five-minute periods of extra time will be played until a winner is decided. This replaced the former practice of replaying the drawn final on the following weekend, thus delaying all other finals by one week.
- NRL finals system
- Early VFL Final systems
- AFL Grand Final
- McIntyre System
- Top five play-offs
- Top six play-offs
- Super League play-offs
- Under the AFL finals series, the term "semi-final" has different usage to that a traditional knock out tournament. The two games played immediately before the Grand Final, which would be known as semi-finals in a knock out tournament, are called "preliminary finals". The semi-finals refer to the two games preceding the preliminary finals. This unusual terminology is a consequence of retaining aspects of the terminology used under the McIntyre Systems from 1931 until 1993, when only one preliminary final was played.
- Herald Sun "AFL announces extra time for Grand Final replay", retrieved 25 September 2010
- Grand Finals at the MCG Contains a brief summary of the finals systems used in the VFL/AFL