AFL Finals System Could be Drastically Changed with a Wildcard Round

Noah Strang
Noah Strang
BettingTop10 News
Addition of Wildcard round could be in the future of AFL finals system

‘Wildcard round’ similar to that of the NBA’s play-in tournament could be set to come to the AFL. 

News Insights

  • AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon set to meet with CEOs today.
  • ‘Wildcard round’ considered to be main topic of discussion.
  • Will the AFL follow in the NBA’s footsteps?
  • What could it look like?

A change to the AFL’s longstanding finals system could potentially be on the horizon with talks of a ‘wildcard round’ being implemented. With the success of the NBA’s play-in tournament over the past few years the AFL may be looking for a similar framework. 

Meeting with Club CEO’s Taking Place Today

It’s been reported by The Herald Sun that today’s meeting between AFL’s new CEO Andrew Dillon and the 18 club CEOs will have a strong focus on innovation of the league as a whole. 

Specifically, the idea of a wildcard round built into the framework of the current finals system will be amongst the key topics. 

The wildcard round would add more excitement for fans as well as let betting apps offer unique betting markets to Australians. 

It was announced in late April that Dillon would be replacing Gillon McLachlan as AFL CEO. Though the official changing of the guard is set to take place at the end of the 2023 season, Dillon has been acting as CEO-elect since the announcement. 

The suggestion of a wildcard round to the AFL’s finals system reflects much of what Dillon spoke about during his introductory press conference back in May. He was adamant on growing the game not only in Australia, but on a global scale whilst also stating that AFL “will be more entertaining, more spectacular and more popular than ever.

Well, in order to achieve these goals, one must certainly be bold and open to drastic change. With Dillon set to pitch the wildcard round idea to owners today, it appears as though he certainly is. 

Will the NBA be used as a Framework?

The AFL and Andrew Dillon can certainly look towards the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver’s play-in tournament as a sort of blueprint for how to implement a big change in playoff structure positively. 

Since it’s inauguration in 2020, the NBA’s play-in tournament has received raving reviews and has been massively successful. This past year the Miami Heat, who took part in two play-in games, even made it all the way to the NBA Finals. 

The way the NBA play-in tournament works is the seventh and eighth seeds face off and whoever wins that game moves onto the playoffs. The loser of that game faces the winner of a matchup between the ninth and 10th seeds to determine who goes to the playoffs as the new eight seed.

The AFL could somewhat copy this format completely. Or in what is more likely, they could tweak it slightly to better suit the much more physical AFL game. 

The introduction of the play-in tournament has led to more teams competing to the very end in the NBA and has made for more meaningful games down the stretch of the regular season. 

The same could happen in AFL as if a wildcard round were to be implemented, there would be less teams who were completely out of the finals hunt meaning less games at the end of the season would be without real meaning.  

How Could an AFL Wildcard Round Look?

The AFL’s proposed wildcard round could be as simple as the eighth and ninth seeded clubs facing off to determine who moves on to the finals series. 

Or, they could expand it further similar to the NBA and include seeds seven through ten in the wildcard round. Though they would have to be creative to do this as it wouldn’t be quite fair to put these teams through multiple extra matches due to injury risk. 

Perhaps a simple seven vs. ten and eight vs. nine bracket would be doable, though the higher seeds would have to have some sort of advantage going in for performing better in the regular season. 

With the pre-finals bye having been widely criticized since its introduction in 2016, the implementation of a wildcard round could re-inject life into the week. With Andrew Dillon set to meet with the 18 AFL club CEOs later today, the idea of a wildcard round is said to be on the front page of the agenda.