Who drops out of the AFL top 8 in 2023 and why?

As with any AFL season, fans are often inundated with articles about what to expect. It’s usually about who the actual winners and losers of pre-season games are, which coaches/players are in the hot seat, and the most important top eight or ladder predictions.

It is often the latter that dominates the AFL sphere and sparks discussion and debate among fans. In many of these predictions, there seems to be this preconceived idea that the top eight will not change from last year or that only one team, often the team that finished 9th, will enter the eight.

However, when comparing previous years, it becomes abundantly clear that the top eight are constantly changing and rarely, if ever, stagnant.

To be fair, it’s completely understandable that some people don’t see this. We have a very small sample in terms of seeing teams play, with most now favoring intra-club games. When every club says their players have ‘coached the house’ and are ‘in the best shape of their lives’, we as fans often rely on last season’s results as a pretty reliable indicator. of what to expect for the next one.

On average, of the eight teams that have reached the Finals every year since 2000, around three teams, or 2.91 if you want to be exact, do not make consecutive Finals appearances.

With that knowledge in mind, it’s time to take a look at last year’s top eight and figure out who is most likely to drop out and why.

Teams that suffer massive Grand Final losses like Sydney did in September have often struggled to bounce back the following year. Of the eight teams that have suffered an eight-goal loss or worse since 2000, only three teams (2021 Western Bulldogs, 2014 Sydney Swans and 2010 St Kilda Saints) have returned to the final the following year.

Even then, neither of these teams would win a final game, which shows how damaging a loss of this proportion is to a club’s psyche.

The Sydney Swans were whipped in the 2022 Grand Final. Can they mount another charge this season? (Photo by Mark Kolbe/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

We often play into the narrative that teams like Sydney will bounce back with even more determination to do better and redeem themselves from the demons of last year. But often it looks like those kinds of results can set clubs back a year or two, which I think will happen in Sydney.

Collingwood, despite playing incredible football last year, also looks likely to fall on the eight. In 2022, suddenly under new coach Craig McRae, they went from 17th to 4th which, frankly, no one saw coming.

Teams that go from having no expectations to suddenly expecting to fight for a premiership can often struggle with this adjustment. We’ve seen this happen lately in Melbourne, Hawthorn in 2019 and to a lesser extent in Port Adelaide in 2018 after a lot of hype and expectation within the media to maintain and grow their impressive season into the next.

Given the number of close games Collingwood have won, 11 of their 16 with less than two goals and the likelihood of that repeat not being strong, it seems unlikely that they will play finals in 2023.

The Western Bulldogs, with the loss of Josh Dunkley, also look set to miss the top eight. Losing a guy who averaged 25 kills, six tackles, six points and one goal per game throughout last season is significant for any team, no matter how deep the Bulldogs are in midfield.

Bulldogs' Josh Dunkley passes the ball by hand

Josh Dunkley is a huge loss for the Bulldogs. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The difference between their entry into the final last year and their ninth-place finish was 0.6 percentage points, which certainly makes their position precarious, with teams such as Carlton, Gold Coast and Port Adelaide looking likely to finish among the top eight and edge out the Bulldogs.

Add to that their issues in defense which saw them sit eleventh in points conceded and I think they will finish outside the Finals positions.

As always with predictions, they are hard to come by due to the unpredictable nature of football, which is what makes it great. But expecting the same thing to repeat itself over and over again is insane and hopefully can lead to more challenging and interesting storytelling as the season approaches.

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