September in Melbourne means many things to Melbournians but there is one group of locals (and Australia-wide) whose year almost revolves around the coming of the first month of spring.
The AFL Finals Series traditionally takes up the month of September, only very rarely spilling outside of the month that leads football sides to the Holy Grail of their game – the AFL Grand Final.
Over four weeks, the Top Eight sides to emerge from the standard 24-round AFL home-and-away season take to the footy trenches in open warfare with the aim of emerging victorious with that year’s Premiership Flag.
The structure of the AFL Finals Series is set up to offer the sides who have played best the most opportunities to progress to the Grand Final, predominantly via them being allocated home-game matches and securing the double chance.
Week One is the Qualifying and Elimination phase of the series, with games determined according to where a side finished up on the Premiership Ladder at the end of the season:
1st Qualifying Final: 1st hosts 4th
2nd Qualifying Final: 2nd hosts 3rd
From this, the top four sides get the double chance to go through to Round Two of the AFL Finals Series. The winner of each of the two matches that the Top Four sides play in gets a bye (a rest week), heading straight to Week Three (the Preliminary Finals). The loser gets the second chance in being offered a berth in Round Two (the Semi-Finals).
1st Elimination Final: 5th hosts 8th
2nd Elimination Final: 6th hosts 7th
The next four sides face-off in a sudden-death competition where the loser is out of the race for the Flag and the winner goes through to the Semi-Finals.
Usually the games occur right across this first weekend of the AFL Grand Final series, with a game on Friday Night, Saturday Afternoon, Saturday Night and Sunday Afternoon – a footy fan’s dream weekend!
Week Two sees two Semi-Finals played:
1st Semi-final – comprising the loser of 1st Qualifying Final hosting the winner of 1st Elimination Final
2nd Semi-final: comprising the loser of 2nd Qualifying Final hosting the winner of 2nd Elimination Final
Generally, one semi-final is played on a Friday Night and the other is played on a Saturday Night, with the losers of these out of the running and the winner progressing to Week Three.
Week Three, the penultimate week of the AFL Grand Final Series, offers footy fans two Preliminary Finals:
1st Preliminary Final pits the winner of 1st Qualifying Final up against the winner of 2nd Semi-Final
2nd Preliminary Final offers the winner of 2nd Qualifying Final the chance to host the winner of 1st Semi-Final.
Similar to the round before, one Preliminary final is played on a Friday Night and the other is played on either Saturday Afternoon or Night, with the two victorious teams emerging as the sides to take on each other a week later in the AFL Grand Final.
The AFL Grand Final series winds up with a week of footy celebrations including the coveted Brownlow Medal Awards (where the best and fairest player as voted by the officiating umpires of each home-and-away match is decided); training sessions for both AFL Grand Final competing sides (often attended by tens of thousands of fans ); ongoing media coverage of every aspect of the upcoming game; events and functions of all types across the city; and the annual Grand Final parade held on the day before the game.
AFL Grand Final Series betting heats up as soon as the home-and-away season finishes, although eager AFL punters can take a futures bet on Top 8, Top 4, “To Reach Grand Final” and “Premiers” markets all year around. It pays to keep in mind that very few sides from outside of the Top 4 ever go on to play in an AFL Grand Final. As with AFL betting during the season, the more popular AFL Grand Final betting markets centre around head-to-head betting , margin betting, line betting, half-time/full-time doubles and quarter by quarter betting.
The AFL Final Series is a remarkable four weeks of electrifying football for footy fans as they watch the very best (although occasionally there are a few surprises!) of the AFL Season show up willing to lay it all on the line to take home the flag on that ‘One day in September’.
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