Jacob Bauer runs with the ball during the round 22 VFL match between Richmond and North Melbourne at Swinburne Centre. Picture: Josh Chadwick/AFL Photos

A review of all the action from Round 22 of the 2023 Smithy’s VFL season.

There were many twists in the final round as a couple of crucial upsets and a never-seen-before belting turned the make-up of the top 10 on its head as the positions weren’t decided until the last game of the season.

Casey Demons will play North Melbourne while Collingwood will meet Richmond in the Wildcard Round this weekend as the Gold Coast Suns, Werribee, Box Hill Hawks, Brisbane Lions, Williamstown and Footscray Bulldogs enjoy a week off to prepare for what lies ahead.


FRANKSTON 2.3, 2.3, 8.4, 10.6 (66)
2.2, 8.6, 11.7, 16.9 (105)

BOX HILL Hawks produced a blistering second quarter to put paid to a gallant Frankston by 39 points at Kinetic Stadium on Friday night and secure their double chance in the finals.

The Dolphins outscored the Hawks across the other three quarters and pulled within 21 points at three quarter-time but were made to pay whenever they made an error, no matter how slight it was.

Frankston led by a point at quarter-time after an entertaining start before Box Hill flicked the switch in the second term, putting on 6.4 to no score to go to the main break up by 39, a margin that could have been bigger but for the desperate defence of the home team which stopped the damage being 10 or even 12.

The Dolphins had their best period in the third, kicking six goals to three including three in six minutes early on as they showed what they can be capable of if they can string it together for a full four quarters.

Hawk ruckman Lloyd Meek was the difference, throwing his bulk around to finish with 26 disposals, 41 hitouts, eight clearances, four marks, four tackles and three goals.

Cam Mackenzie (25 disposals, five marks, 11 tackles, nine entries) was on fire early and Cooper Stephens (28 disposals, nine clearances, six tackles, five entries) took over late for a team missing star rebounder Callum Brown, while Lachie Bramble (24 disposals, six clearances, six tackles, six entries, two goals) and Bailey Macdonald (22 disposals, five marks, eight clearances, one goal) were also in everything.

Frankston had the most dangerous forward on the ground in Matt Johnson, who kicked a couple of wonderful goal on his way to 3.3 from 15 disposals and seven marks, with backman Jackson Voss (23 disposals, seven rebounds) also in form and the Riley brothers Lachie (25 disposals) and Connor (20 disposals, five clearances, six tackles) doing the grunt work along with Seb Quirk (19, five clearances, seven tackles).



GOLD COAST SUNS 3.3, 14.7, 21.9, 23.11 (149)
1.2, 2.2, 2.4, 2.10 (22)

GOLD COAST put down its marker as the premiership favourite with a stunning 127-point obliteration of Carlton at Heritage Bank Stadium on Saturday that sent the Blues spiralling out of the finals race at the final hurdle.

The Blues entered the game eight per cent ahead of 10th-placed North Melbourne and two points clear of 11th-placed Richmond with those two teams scheduled to play each other.

However, they slumped to the biggest loss in their VFA/VFL history to finish three per cent behind the Kangaroos despite their own eventual defeat.

The margin was 13 points greater than Carlton’s previous biggest loss – 114 points to Geelong at IKON Park in 2002, and a whopping 53 points greater than their record away defeat of 74 points to Sandringham in the 2000 preliminary final at ETU Stadium.

There was little sign of what was to come at quarter-time when the Suns led by 13 points but the second term might have been the bursting of the Dartmouth Dam wall as the home team racked up a stunning 11.4 to 1.0 to blow the margin out to 77 points at the main break.

They continued on their merry way with another seven to none in the third before putting the cue in the rack.

Gold Coast had 136 more disposals, won hitouts 53-34, clearances 51-17 and inside-50 entries 68-28 in an ominous show of power ahead of a guaranteed two home finals in the next month – even though the first one is now a QClash.

Chris Burgess slammed on six goals in the first half and eight for the match from 10 marks while teammate Brodie McLaughlin booted five with nine grabs as they had the luxury of working out a way to share the Frosty Miller Medal for the league’s leading goalkicker with 51 majors apiece, the second straight such win for Burgess.

Charlie Constable (41 disposals, five marks, five rebounds) did as he pleased off half-back and he had plenty of mates, with Alex Davies (31 disposals, 13 clearances, seven tackles, one goal), Oskar Faulkhead (29 disposals, seven clearances, six tackles, seven entries, two goals), James Tsitas (30 disposals, six tackles, six entries, one goal), Elijah Hollands (30 disposals, five clearances, one goal) and Connor Blakely (26 disposals, six marks, seven clearances, seven entries) proving unstoppable.

Not surprisingly, Carlton’s most prolific players were in defence, where first-year star Jaxon Binns (27 disposals, five tackles, five rebounds), Lewis Young (22 disposals, 15 marks, eight rebounds), Lachie Cowan (23 disposals, eight marks, five tackles, seven rebounds) and Sam Durdin (21 disposals, 10 marks) did their best to hold back the tidal wave.



FOOTSCRAY BULLDOGS 4.4, 7.6, 13.9, 16.11 (107)
0.1, 1.6, 2.7, 4.11 (35)

FOOTSCRAY claimed its 10th-straight win and a top-six berth that looked light years away in the first half of the year with an ominous 72-point spanking of Port Melbourne at DSV Stadium.

The Bulldogs controlled the match from the start, with only their finishing stopping them from leading by more than 27 points at the first break and they sealed the game with three goals to one against the wind in the second term.

Another six goals to one in the third raised thoughts of a triple-figure margin before the Borough was able to fight things out in the last term wit 2.4 to 3.2 to limit the damage.

Footscray’s class was on show all over the field, with a +104 disposal count as Jordon Sweet put on another clinic in the ruck with 55 hitouts to go with 18 disposals, eight clearances, six tackles, five inside-50s and a wonderful snapped goal from a boundary throw-in.

Toby McLean was in ripping touch early on his way to 32 touches, five marks, 12 clearances, 10 tackles and two goals, skipper Lachie Sullivan (31 disposals, five marks, five clearances, eight entries, one goal) was outstanding again through the middle with Ewan Macpherson (21 disposals, five clearances) getting under Port’s skin regularly.

Hayden Crozier (30 disposals, six marks, five rebounds) and Luke Cleary (26 disposals, 13 marks, five rebounds) repelled countless attacks from the Borough, and the dominance was capped off by Buku Khamis (seven marks, four goals including his 50th VFL major) and Luke Goater (six marks, three goals).



GEELONG CATS 3.3, 8.5, 12.6, 14.8 (92)
3.4, 5.5, 9.8, 11.12 (78)

IT WAS also a second-quarter burst that secured a successful finish to the season for Geelong as it held off GWS by 14 points at GMHBA Stadium.

The Giants had the better of the early exchanges but only led by a point at the first break when Ollie Dempsey kicked a goal for the Cats just before the siren and despite Daniel Gauci booting his second for the visitors straight after the break, the home team responded with six of the next seven.

GWS got two back quickly to keep things tight as the teams went virtually goal-for-goal for the rest of the day and the Cats landed their eighth win of the year.

Geelong would probably feel it should have won by more given its +108 disposal count but made a lot of mistakes and conceded plenty of turnovers as it lost the inside-50 count 49-45

Giant James Peatling was clearly the leading ball winner on the ground with 29 possessions, eight clearances and five tackles with Geelong remarkably having the next 12 players on the list, with six of them having more handballs than kicks.

Mitch Hardie (23 disposals, seven clearances, six tackles, one goal), Brayden Ham (23 disposals, seven marks, six entries), Dempsey (23 disposals, two goals), Toby Conway (21 disposals, five marks, 26 hitouts), Dan Capiron (22 disposals, seven marks, seven rebounds), Mitch Knevitt (22, six marks, one goal), Jye Chalcraft (20 disposals, two goals) and Osca Riccardi (22 disposals, one goal) all got plenty of it and former Giant Euriah Hollard snagged three majors on club debut.

No Giant behind Peatling managed 20 touches, although Conor Stone and Harry Rowston had 19 and a goal each, Phil Davis picked up 19 and seven marks in his last VFL game and Aaron Cadman kicked three goals.



COLLINGWOOD 6.2, 10.5, 13.9, 16.12 (108)
1.5, 4.6, 7.8, 8.10 (58)

COLLINGWOOD wrapped up its second consecutive finals berth and ended Southport’s disappointing season with a comfortable 50-point victory at AIA Centre.

The Sharks have been cruelled by injuries to key players at various stages of the year and were out of contention before the game but would have hoped to put up a better showing for the 100th NEAFL/VFL game of superstar Jacob Dawson and the 50th club appearances of Dawson, Jesse Joyce and Brayden Crossley.

But the Magpies came out red-hot with six goals to one in the first quarter and it was all academic from there as they extended their lead at every change to seal their Wildcard Round spot.

Southport actually had more of the football, winning disposals 368-343, hitouts 51-15, clearances 39-30 and inside-50s by five as Dawson (34 disposals, eight clearances, five entries) and Boyd Woodcock (33 disposals, eight clearances, nine entries, five rebounds) racked them up again, but was never in the game after that opening quarter salvo.

Fin Macrae picked up where he left off before his thumb injury with 26 touches, 11 inside-50s and a goal for Collingwood, with first-year player Ed Allan (23 disposals, six marks, one goal), Trey Ruscoe (21 disposals, seven tackles, eight rebounds) and Josh Carmichael (21 disposals, five clearances) also impressing.

Reef McInnes took nine marks and booted four goals from 18 touches, Ash Johnson had 10 marks and two majors from 17 and Campbell Lane took six marks and had eight rebounds from 17.

Max Pescud turned in his best game of an injury-interrupted season for the Sharks with 26 possessions, six marks and two goals, Crossley had 19 touches, 32 hitouts, seven clearances and five inside-50s and Jake McQueen impressed up forward with 3.3 from 18 disposals and five marks plus six entries.



ESSENDON 6.4, 9.7, 13.8, 15.10 (100)
0.2, 4.7, 9.8, 12.13 (85)

ESSENDON blew Coburg away in the first quarter before holding off a late rally to secure a fifth win of the year and consign the Lions to a first winless season in three decades in a 15-point result at DSV Stadium.

The Bombers blasted six unanswered goals past the Lions in the opening term to lead by 38 points and ensure there would be no last-day heroics from the wooden spooners, although Coburg fought the match out well, winning each of the remaining three quarters to record its highest score for the season.

James Stewart was the star for Essendon in what has been another injury-ruined season, finishing with five goals, while Will Setterfield (29 disposals, five clearances, six tackles, seven entries, one goal) was best afield and Billy Cootee (31 disposals, nine clearances, seven entries) dominated through the middle, along with ruckman Nick Bryan (24, seven marks, 42 hitouts, five clearances, one goal) and Tom Phillips (24 disposals, five marks).

Sam Weideman was again terrific in his new defensive role with 26 touches, nine marks and seven rebounds, with Joel Fitzgerald (26 disposals, six rebounds) and Alastair Lord (24 disposals, six rebounds) providing strong support.

Coburg star Luke Nelson (31 disposals, five marks) did his best to keep his team in the contest, with fellow best and fairest contender Ben Jepson (27 disposals, five marks, five rebounds), Flynn Gentile (27 disposals, five clearances, seven tackles, seven entries), 50th-gamer Lachlan Walker (26 disposals, 10 marks) and Braedyn Gillard (27 disposals) also performing well.

Mitch Podhajski continued to relish his move back into the forward line, kicking his 50th VFL major among his tally of 4.3.



RICHMOND 2.5, 5.8, 11.9, 13.10 (88)
2.1, 4.3, 6.6, 11.10 (76)

RICHMOND grabbed a Wildcard Round spot at the very last time of asking, pinching bitter rival Carlton’s position in the top 10 with an impressive 12-point win over North Melbourne at Swinburne Centre on Sunday.

The Tigers knew a victory would get them into the post-season with their early season draw against Geelong rendering their poor percentage meaningless, but thought it would be the Kangaroos they would be knocking out until Carlton’s horror show against Gold Coast on Saturday.

The first half was a gruelling struggle with neither team able to grab the upper hand until goals from Samson Ryan and Tyler Sonsie gave the home team an 11-point lead at the main change.

It was just the leg-up Richmond needed, banging on six goals in 17 minutes in the third term to get out by as much as 46 points, which gave the Blues hope they might be able to survive as North’s lead on the ladder slid below the one per cent mark.

But the Roos responded with two quick goals before adding five to two in the last to save their own season despite slipping to a fourth-consecutive defeat

North Melbourne was hurt by its handball-happy tactics, having 203 of them to 196 kicks as its +91 disposal count and 47-33 clearance win were rendered meaningless by Richmond’s sharp kicking game (198-110).

Sonsie starred for the Tigers with 25 disposals and a goal before being placed on report for a striking charge in the last two minutes of the game. Sam Banks (23 disposals, 11 marks, six rebounds), Brad Melville (20 disposals, seven marks, six entries), Rhyan Mansell (19 disposals, six clearances, 10 tackles) and Tom Brindley (19 disposals, five marks, one goal) were also strong.

Jacob Bauer put his hand up for an AFL recall with seven marks and four goals, Bachar Houli Academy graduate Mohammed Yassine booted three majors and Ryan finished with 2.1 from 15 touches and 33 hitouts.

Charlie Lazzaro, however, would be hard to top for best afield honours after dominating in a losing cause with a triple double of 35 touches, 11 clearances and 12 tackles, plus six inside-50s for the Kangaroos.

Captain Jack Watkins (29 disposals, eight marks, seven clearances, seven entries) continued his terrific year, Ben Davis (28 disposals, seven marks, five tackles), Connor Downie (23 disposals, five marks) and Nick Stevens (21 disposals, seven tackles, five entries) did well around the ground.

Jarrod Lienert (24 disposals, nine rebounds) stood tall in defence alongside Kallan Dawson and Miller Bergman (21 and six marks each) and Tyler Sellers continued to show his AFL traits with four goals.



CASEY DEMONS 5.1, 7.2, 12.3, 12.6 (78)
1.4, 5.7, 9.10, 11.14 (80)

BRISBANE LIONS gave up their top four spot in a shock home loss to Williamstown last week and promptly did what good teams do, winning it back with a startling come-from-behind two-point thriller over Casey Demons at Casey Fields.

The Lions set up a QClash qualifying final against a rampaging Gold Coast after rallying from 33 points down seven minutes into the second quarter.

The visitors hit the lead before three quarter-time before the Demons steadied with three quick goals late in the third term but only managed three behinds in the last as Tom Fullarton responded in the shadows of the break, before Henry Smith and then a classy running shot from James Tunstill gave the visitors a narrow advantage which they held to the siren in 22 minutes of desperate goalless footy.

The defeat consigned the Demons to the Wildcard Round and the need to win five sudden death games in a row to defend their flag, the first of which they will may have to do without Michael Hibberd, who was helped off the field after a solid collision in the last quarter.

The Lions led possession and inside-50s in the first quarter but didn’t take their chances against the wind as Casey kicked five goals to one with Luke Dunstan (31 disposals, six clearances, two goals) and Mitch White (24 disposals, seven entries, two goals) starring in the middle and Dan Turner (25 disposals, eight marks, 10 rebounds) virtually impassable down back.

Rhys Mathieson was the catalyst for the Lions, racking up more than 20 disposals in the first half on his way to 38, seven clearances and five tackles, with only his three behinds letting him down, while Bruce Reville (19 disposals, seven tackles, two goals) and Nakia Cockatoo (19 disposals, six tackles, five entries, one goal) were hard to lay a glove on.

Harry Sharp roamed up and down the outer wing for 23 possessions and six marks in a strong performance, Kyle Dunkley (22 disposals, six clearances, eight tackles) did the hard stuff in the middle, Jaxon Prior (24 disposals, eight marks, 10 rebounds) was terrific in defence, Tahj Abberley (20 disposals, eight marks) performed well in his 50th NEAFL/VFL game, but the Lions did lose the returning Noah Answerth to a shoulder injury.

Charlie Spargo (25 disposals, 10 marks, five entries, one goal) ran free at half-forward for Casey, Taj Woewodin (21 disposals, seven marks, one goal) was terrific on a wing and Jimmy Munro (24 disposals, eight clearances, 14 tackles) was again a terrier under the packs and debutant Ziggy Toledo-Glasman showed plenty, booting a goal with his first kick and finished with two majors.



SYDNEY SWANS 1.0, 3.4, 4.4, 8.8 (56)
4.5, 7.6, 10.9, 13.11 (89)

WERRIBEE cruised into its first finals campaign since 2019 with a comfortable 33-point win over Sydney at Tramway Oval.

With two home finals locked up and no chance of catching Gold Coast after the Suns’ romp the previous day, the Tigers put paid to the contest with 4.5 to 0.1 in the first quarter before breezing through the rest of the game.

Four-time best and fairest winner Matt Hanson is back to his best after his injury-hampered season, leading all comers with 34 disposals, 10 marks, five tackles, six entries and two goals in his 99th VFL game, while dual Liston medallist Tom Gribble (31 disposals, eight marks) was everywhere again.

Regular stars Dom Brew (33 disposals, 11 clearances, seven tackles, five entries), Shaun Mannagh (29, disposals nine clearances, six tackles, five entries, two goals), skipper Nick Coughlan (29 disposals, 10 marks, six rebounds), Michael Sodomaco (27 disposals, six marks), Kye Declase (27 disposals, 10 marks, five tackles, two goals) and Bior Malual (24 disposals, 12 marks, one goal) all had too much for the young Swans to handle.

Sam Clohesy (23 disposals, 10 marks) was also in fine fettle and Hudson Garoni kicked three goals from eight marks to finish third in the Frosty Miller Medal on 40.

Corey Warner (28 disposals, six entries, six rebounds, one goal), Ryan Clarke (24 disposals, five clearances after being the sub in Adelaide the night before), Matt Roberts (23 disposals, seven clearances, six tackles) all reminded AFL coach John Longmire they are ready to go if required, while defenders Lewis Melican (22 disposals) and Harry Arnold (19 disposals, eight marks, five rebounds) both put their hands up if Tom McCartin doesn’t win his tribunal challenge on Tuesday night.

Lachlan Rankin relished a chance to sneak forward in the last game of his second season, booting two goals – his first majors in a 38-VFL game career so far – from 22 disposals, plus five marks, five tackles and six rebounds.



SANDRINGHAM 6.0, 10.3, 11.4, 16.6 (102)
0.1, 2.5, 7.6, 10.7 (67)

SANDRINGHAM sent its bunnies tumbling out of the top four, stunning Williamstown for a fourth time in a row with a remarkable 35-point upset at Wilson Storage Trevor Barker Beach Oval in the final game of the home-and-away season.

Jack Hayes exploded to kick six goals and cause nightmares for the Seagulls’ defence as the Zebras claimed another shock win to stretch their winning streak into a sixth year – they haven’t lost since they failed to kick a goal in the teeming rain at Williamstown in 2018.

And they effectively had it won by quarter-time, kicking six goals to none as Williamstown looked horribly flat after its monumental effort to beat Casey Demons and Brisbane Lions away from home in the past three weeks.

The Seagulls tried to rally with the first two goals of the second quarter, but the Zebras kicked the next four to lead by 46 points at half-time.

There was hope by the final change after the visitors added five goals to one in the third to bring it back to 22, but they could get no closer and Sandringham put the exclamation mark on with four goals in 10 minutes midway through the last term before Williamstown got a couple of consolations.

Hayes had kicked 2.2 in his first three games back from injury but kicked them from everywhere to boot 6.0 from 13 disposals and four marks, taking full toll of the opportunities provided by Jack Billings (24 disposals, five entries, one goal), Ben Paton (22 disposals, seven clearances, eight tackles, six entries) and Nick Coffield (21 disposals, seven rebounds), while youngster Tarkyn O’Leary kicked two goals in his second game and Anthony Caminiti two in his VFL debut.

Tom Campbell won the pivotal ruck contest against fellow star Tom Downie, having 33 hitouts to 30 but adding 19 disposals, seven clearances and six entries to Downie’s five touches and seven tackles.

Jack Toner did his best to turn the tide for the Seagulls with a game-high 31 possessions, eight marks, six clearances, nine tackles and eight entries to be the second-best player on the ground.

Defenders Jake Greiser (23 disposals, eight marks, six entries, five rebounds), Marty Hore (21 disposals, 11 marks, nine rebounds) and Fin O’Dwyer (19 disposals, 11 marks) did their best to hold things back and Joel Ottavi (three goals) played well up front, with Oscar McDonald (16 disposals, eight marks, two goals) sent forward to give him a hand.


BYE: Northern Bullants.


Sunday, August 27:
Collingwood (8th) vs. Richmond (9th) – 12:00pm, Swinburne Centre
Casey Demons (7th) vs. North Melbourne (10th) – 2:45pm, Casey Fields

Click here to view full fixture and ladder.

Ticketing: For all matches during Wildcard Round through to the Preliminary Finals, admission prices will be adults $15, concession/pensioners $10 and children under 15 free. Tickets for Wildcard Round matches can be pre-purchased at www.intix.com.au/org/vfl. Tickets can also be purchased at the gate, subject to capacity. Spectators purchasing at the gate are advised the payment method is EFTPOS only.

Broadcast and streaming: All matches in the 2023 Smithy’s VFL season will be live streamed free via the AFL website (AFL.com.au) and AFL Live Official App. Smithy’s VFL broadcast partner, the Seven Network, will continue to show one weekly game live and free on the Seven Network in Victoria and on 7Plus nationally. Casey Radio 97.7FM and 3WBC 94.1FM are also broadcasting matches.

Live scoring and stats: Live scoring and stats will be available via both the AFL Live Official App and VFL App. Download the VFL App from the Apple or Google Play stores.