Fergus Greene's 53 goals helped Box Hill Hawks make the finals and earned him a second AFL chance with Hawthorn. Picture: AFL Photos

Position: 8th
W-L-D (%): 11-8-0 (115.29)

Players used: 51 (24 VFL, 27 AFL)
Played every match:
C Porter
Debutants: 24

Longest winning streak: 5 (Rounds 7-13)
Best win: Round 17: Box Hill Hawks 12.15 (87) def Werribee 11.14 (80)
Biggest win: 94 points, Round 7: Box Hill Hawks 23.18 (156) def Essendon 9.8 (62)
Longest losing streak: 3 (Rounds 14-16)
Worst loss: Round 2: Box Hill Hawks 8.11 (59) lost to Carlton 16.9 (105)
Biggest loss: 57 points, Round 22: Box Hill Hawks 6.9 (45) lost to Sydney 15.12 (102)

Liston Medal: F Greene 12, C Porter 12, B Cavarra 9
Coaches MVP: C Porter 40, D Howe 34, L Shiels 32
Goalkickers: F Greene 53, B Cavarra 41, J Callow 17

Disposals: D Mascitti 25.3, L Shiels 24.6, T Phillips 24.4
Kicks: D Mascitti 22.1, L Shiels 14.5, D Howe 14.5
Marks: D Howe 5.5, T Phillips 5.4, E Phillips 5.2
Handballs: T Phillips 12.0, L Shiels 10.1, C Porter 9.7
Tackles: L Shiels 6.1, N Long 5.7, T Phillips 5.3
Hitouts: D Brinker-Ritchie 23.9, M Ramsden 5.3, J Callow 3.5
Clearances: C Porter 6.1, L Shiels 5.8, J Parsons 5.2
Inside-50s: J Parsons 5.4, C Porter 4.3, L Shiels 4.1
Rebound-50s: D Mascitti 7.6, M de Wit 4.9, H Beasley 4.1

What went right: When they got the ball into the forward line, there was every chance the Hawks were going to score. Finishing with two of the top three goalkickers in the league in Fergus Greene and Ben Cavarra meant opposition defences were always on their toes, and the fact the pair booted 94.40 between them proves they took their chances. The two remarkable rallies in time-on of the last quarter to beat Port Melbourne and Werribee will be long remembered at Box Hill City Oval. They also got a rare hitout at the MCG and delivered an impressive victory.

What went wrong: The Hawks struggled to put their best footy together on their home deck, finishing with a 4-4 record at Box Hill City Oval, including the Borough and Tiger escapes and having to come back from five goals down against Richmond. Despite a five-match winning streak through the middle of the year that secured their finals berth, they were never able to gain significant momentum right from the time they dropped their opening two games, including that Collingwood epic.

Summary: The Hawks had an extremely experienced core group, with Cavarra and Damian Mascitti having played well over 100 VFL games and best-and-fairest winner Cal Porter, Ed Phillips, Greene, James Parsons, Hugh Beasley and Kyle Hartigan more than 50, so they will feel they should have delivered a little more than their eighth-place finish. Losing the likes of Beasley, Jordan Cunico and Jaylon Thorpe to injury at various stages didn’t help. The positives were headed by first-year player James Blanck adding his name to the list of Box Hill players promoted to Hawthorn in the mid-season draft, while Greene won an AFL contract at year's end.

Grade: 6/10

Ben Cavarra finished third in the Frosty Miller Medal for the VFL's leading goalkicker. Picture: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos

Position: 9th
W-L-D (%): 11-7-0 (113.75)

Players used: 51 (25 VFL, 26 AFL)
Played every match:
W Martyn, L Street
Debutants: 15

Longest winning streak: 2 (five occasions)
Best win: Round 1: Richmond 16.4 (100) def Southport Sharks 10.9 (69)
Biggest win: 82 points, Round 20: Richmond 21.10 (136) def Northern Bullants 7.12 (54)
Longest losing streak: 2 (Rounds 10-12)
Worst loss: Round 8: Richmond 10.13 (73) lost to Box Hill Hawks 15.16 (106)
Biggest loss: 54 points, Round 2: Richmond 5.10 (40) lost to Sandringham 15.4 (94)

Liston Medal: J Aarts 7, R Collier-Dawkins 7, M Parker 7, S Ryan 7
Coaches MVP: J Aarts 55, R Collier-Dawkins 29, J Ross 18
Goalkickers: N Cumberland 24, J Bauer 16, S Stack 16, J Clarke 16, J Aarts 16

Disposals: T Sonsie 22.2, J Aarts 21.4, R Collier-Dawkins 21.1
Kicks: T Sonsie 15.0, M Parker 13.4, R Mansell 12.9
Marks: R Mansell 6.3, M Parker 6.1, B Nyuon 5.6
Handballs: T Dow 12.2, H Ralphsmith 12.0, R Collier-Dawkins 12.0
Tackles: R Collier-Dawkins 5.4, J Aarts 5.4, J Castagna 4.5
Hitouts: I Soldo 33.7, S Ryan 24.9, M Colina 5.4
Clearances: T Dow 5.6, I Soldo 4.8, R Collier-Dawkins 4.7
Inside-50s: M Parker 4.9, J Castagna 4.0, T Dow 3.8
Rebound-50s: B Miller 5.9, W Martyn 3.9, L Street 3.5

What went right: The Tigers’ long-awaited full premiership defence couldn’t have started any better with a comfortable win over Southport Sharks in the opening game before strong victories over Footscray and Carlton had them in good shape at 3-1 after four rounds. They were untroubled by most of the teams they were expected to beat and showed a lot of character to hold off huge challenges from North Melbourne and Frankston late in the season, the latter keeping their finals hopes alive for an extra day.

What went wrong: All the gains of that terrific display against the Sharks in Round 1 were handed back in a stinker against Sandringham the following week and that was pretty much how the season unfolded. Five times they won back-to-back games but were never able to stretch that to three. They gave up a big lead to lose to Box Hill Hawks in a result that ended up costing them a finals berth, while they went from 2-0 to 2-5 against top eight teams.

Summary: A middling season produced a middling result. They showed a lot of fight to come back from a 7-6 record after Round 15 with their finals hopes on life support, winning four of their last five games to only miss out on the eight when Carlton upset Collingwood on the last day of the season. Lachlan Street led from the front as captain and Jacob Bauer straightened them up when he arrived in the mid-season draft, but the form of most of their key players mirrored the team’s fortunes – up and down.

Grade: 5/10

Thomson Dow led Richmond in handballs and clearances and was third in inside-50s. Picture: AFL Photos

Position: 10th
W-L-D (%): 9-9-0 (126.95)

Players used: 41
Played every match:
K Declase, T Gribble, C Ham, J Henderson, S Mannagh, L Pinnuck
Debutants: 8

Longest winning streak: 4 (Rounds 9-13)
Best win: Round 10: Werribee 16.13 (109) def Collingwood 8.6 (54)
Biggest Win: 181 points, Round 22: Werribee 29.17 (191) def Northern Bullants 0.10 (10)
Longest losing streak: 4 (Rounds 17-21)
Worst loss: Round 14: Werribee 7.16 (58) lost to Port Melbourne 9.7 (61)
Biggest Loss: 70 points, Round 7: Werribee 4.8 (32) lost to Sydney Swans 16.6 (102)

Liston Medal Votes: T Gribble 30 (winner), K Declase 10, O Hanrahan 9, M Hanson 9
Coaches MVP: T Gribble 64, K Declase 40, O Hanrahan 38
Goalkickers: H Garoni 32, S Mannagh 27, K Declase 21

Disposals: T Gribble 33.2, M Hanson 25.2, O Hanrahan 22.8
Kicks: T Gribble 17.0, N Coughlan 16.4, M Hanson 16.2
Marks: K Declase 7.6, L Pinnuck 7.1, N Coughlan 6.7
Handballs: T Gribble 16.2, J Henderson 10.9, O Hanrahan 10.5
Tackles: D Brew 9.9, S Mannagh 5.7, T McCaffrey 4.5
Hitouts: S Conway 21.1, J Porter 6.3, H Garoni 3.5
Clearances: T Gribble 7.3, D Brew 5.5, M Hanson 4.8
Inside-50s: T Gribble 5.6, S Mannagh 5.1, K Declase 4.1, M Hanson 4.1
Rebound-50s: N Coughlan 6.7, L Pinnuck 3.8, M Sodomaco 3.4

What went right: Tom Gribble winning his second consecutive J.J. Liston Trophy in a canter. Stepping up to the co-captaincy, Gribble topped the Tigers in disposals, kicks, handballs, clearances and inside-50s in another stunning season from a modern day great of the VFL. They showed what they were capable of with a brilliant run of six wins in seven games mid-season by an average of almost nine goals that put them back into finals contention. But it didn’t last.

What went wrong: The Tigers went into the season as one of the premiership favourites but like 2021 found themselves chasing tail early on after slumping to 2-4, including two thumping home losses from non-Victorian opposition in Southport Sharks and Sydney Swans. They produced a shocking half against Port Melbourne, being goalless at the main break for the first time since 1966, and the comeback to a three-point loss only masked the disappointment. They also gave up a 20-point lead in time-on of the final quarter against Box Hill Hawks, going onto lose four in a row to fall out of contention. Losing key defenders Nick Coughlan and Nathan Cooper to injury for six games each was also crippling.

Summary: It would be hard for anyone at Avalon Airport Oval to disagree with a 2022 assessment of a fail grade. The Tigers have one of the best and most experienced midfields in the competition, a multi-pronged forward set-up and a strong defensive unit. Yet they lost four home games and showed an inability to close out tight contests, going 1-4 in matches decided by single-figure margins. The massacre of a hapless Northern Bullants in the last round only served to ask more questions about how this powerful line-up could win only nine games for the year. That result saw them finish with the third-best percentage in the competition, which would be another source of frustration. They are far too good to be finishing 10th.

Grade: 3/10

Werribee co-captain Tom Gribble produced another remarkable season, finishing VFL fourth in disposals and handball averages and equal seventh in clearances and inside-50s on his way to a second consecutive J.J. Liston Trophy. Picture: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

Position: 11th
W-L-D (%): 9-9-0 (117.83)

Players used: 54 (23 VFL, 31 AFL)
Played every match:
E Macpherson
Debutants: 15

Longest winning streak: 3 (Rounds 19-22)
Best win: Round 19: Footscray Bulldogs 12.12 (84) def Werribee 9.4 (58)
Biggest win: 123 points, Round 20: Footscray Bulldogs 24.14 (158) def Coburg 5.5 (35)
Longest losing streak: 3 (Rounds 3-5)
Worst Loss: Round 4: Footscray Bulldogs 10.19 (79) lost to North Melbourne 13.7 (85)
Biggest Loss: 55 points, Round 8: Footscray Bulldogs 4.11 (35) lost to Collingwood 13.12 (90)

Liston Medal: L Sullivan 20, J Schache 9, B Khamis 6
Coaches MVP: L Sullivan 81, J Schache 31, B Khamis 16
Goalkickers: J Schache 31, B Khamis 15, L McNeil 11


Disposals: L Sullivan 28.1, T McLean 25.2, R Garcia 25.0
Kicks: H Crozier 15.1, L Sullivan 14.2, T McLean 14.2
Marks: H Crozier 7.9, T O’Brien 7.0, S Darcy 6.9
Handballs: L Sullivan 13.9, R Garcia 11.4, T McLean 11.0
Tackles: T McLean 5.8, L Sullivan 5.6, D Orgill 5.1
Hitouts: J Sweet 27.7, S Martin 21.5, S Darcy 5.0
Clearances: S Martin 8.3, L Sullivan 6.8, T McLean 5.8
Inside-50s: T McLean 5.5, R Garcia 5.3, L Sullivan 4.7
Rebound-50s: H Crozier 4.5, T O’Brien 3.8, L Cleary 3.4, Z Cordy 3.4

What went right: The finish of the season was impressive with five wins in the last seven games, even though the back-to-back century thumpings of Coburg and GWS GIANTS were tempered by the fact the Lions were badly undermanned by that stage and the GIANTS had put the cue in the rack. The big wins over Box Hill Hawks, Sandringham and Werribee stunted the top four push of the former and ended the seasons of the latter two. Skipper Lachie Sullivan had another great season, featuring in the club’s top three of nearly every category and recording top five finishes in both the Liston Trophy and Coaches MVP.

What went wrong: The Bulldogs were on the back foot from the start, losing badly to Sydney Swans in Round 1 and slumping to 2-6 with their season shot by Round 9. They had played five home games by that stage, losing to three non-Victorian teams and scraping home against the struggling Northern Bullants and Essendon. As mentioned above, the two huge wins to end the year look good on the surface, but like Werribee, did they only declare Footscray to be underachievers?

Summary: After being undefeated in last year’s abandoned season, the Bulldogs never got going. The Swans crunched them in Round 1 and it set the tone for both clubs’ fortunes through the year. But the only two games they lost after Round 13 were to the top two teams (before the finals) in Brisbane Lions and Casey Demons, and they were within four goals in both. Using an equal league-high 31 AFL-listed players suggests the Bulldogs struggled for continuity as well. They wouldn’t be happy with finishing 11th (and shouldn’t be) but they can be expected to bounce back quickly.

Grade: 4/10

Lachie Sullivan put in a real captain's knock for Footscray, finishing top five in the Liston Medal and Coaches MVP and top three for the club in disposals, kicks, handballs, tackles, clearances and inside-50s. Picture: Jonathan DiMaggio/AFL Photos

Position: 12th
W-L-D (%): 8-9-1 (94.00)

Players used: 55 (27 VFL, 28 AFL)
Played every match:
M Allison, A Seaton
Debutants: 20

Longest winning streak: 4, six matches undefeated (Rounds 4-11)
Best win: Round 2: Sandringham 15.4 (94) def Richmond 5.10 (40)
Biggest win: 54 points, Round 2: Sandringham 15.4 (94) def Richmond 5.10 (40)
Longest losing streak: 4 (Rounds 12-16)
Worst loss: Round 13: Sandringham 13.12 (90) lost to Essendon 15.14 (104)
Biggest loss: 82 points, Round 1: Sandringham 8.9 (57) lost to Casey Demons 21.13 (139)

Liston Medal: T Campbell 14, R Byrnes 7, J Billings 6, M Windhager 6
Coaches MVP: T Campbell 51, T Highmore 28, R Byrnes 23
Goalkickers: O Lowe 20, D Kent 18, C Carey 15

Disposals: R Byrnes 26.0, J Bytel 24.8, T Highmore 23.1
Kicks: J Lienert 17.1, T Highmore 16.3, D Joyce 13.9
Marks: T Highmore 8.4, J Geary 5.6, J Lienert 5.4, S Dunell 5.4
Handballs: R Byrnes 12.9, M Owens 11.6, J Bytel 11.4
Tackles: J Bytel 5.9, R Byrnes 5.4, B Watson 4.5
Hitouts: T Campbell 37.1, M Heath 12.6, C Carey 7.9
Clearances: T Campbell 7.9, J Bytel 7.0, R Byrnes 6.6
Inside-50s: D Kent 4.0, M Owens 3.9, J Bytel 3.8
Rebound-50s: D Joyce 6.5, J Lienert 6.1, T Highmore 5.7

What went right: Despite a strange first three weeks that included a huge win over Richmond sandwiched between floggings from Casey Demons and Box Hill Hawks, the Zebras’ first two months of the season were terrific. They entered their Round 11 bye at 6-2-1, including wins over eventual finalists Gold Coast SUNS and Carlton and an interstate draw with an in-form GWS GIANTS. Those six wins came by an average of almost five goals. Tom Campbell was the league’s premier ruckman, the defence was as good as any in the competition and Oliver Lowe had a promising year up forward.

What went wrong: Unfortunately for the Zebras, the wheels completely fell off after that as they lost seven of their last nine games, with the only wins coming against bottom three teams Coburg and Williamstown. While the defence was a strength, it highlighted the problems in the middle, with the key defenders filling the top three spots on their kicks ladder, meaning the ball spent far too long in the back half. St Kilda's mids dominated when they were there, but the Zebras had a different engine room almost every week.

Summary: Once again a season of two parts for the Zebras. A terrific start to the year that had supporters thinking their long finals drought was coming to an end and a horror second half when they looked mostly like a bottom four team. They won their first five home games by an average of 34.8 points and lost their last four by an average of 36. That’s the season in a nutshell right there. The loss to Essendon in Round 13 was the turning point, when they went in as hot favourites and were never in the contest.

Grade: 4.5/10

Sandringham big man Tom Campbell did it in the air and on the ground, ranking No.2 in the VFL for hitout average and No.6 for clearances. Picture: Kelly Defina/AFL Photos

Position: 13th
W-L-D (%): 8-9-1 (93.33)

Players Used: 69 (41 VFL, 28 AFL)
Played Every Match:
B Clark, C Fleeton, S Frost, R Hebron
Debutants: 25

Longest winning streak: 4, six matches undefeated (Rounds 1-6)
Best win: Round 4: GWS GIANTS 14.12 (96) def Collingwood 12.7 (79)
Biggest win: 110 points, Round 6: GWS GIANTS 23.10 (148) def Northern Bullants 5.8 (38)
Longest losing streak: 5 (Rounds 17-22)
Worst loss: Round 22: GWS GIANTS 6.4 (40) lost to Footscray Bulldogs 23.18 (156)
Biggest loss: 116 points, Round 22: GWS GIANTS 6.4 (40) lost to Footscray Bulldogs 23.18 (156)

Liston Medal: B Preuss 8, J Brander 7, J Green 6
Coaches MVP: J Brander 39, J Fahey 20, B Preuss 19
Goalkickers: R Hebron 21, J Riccardi 19, W Shaw 13

Disposals: J Brander 23.5, J Fahey 21.8, J Wehr 20.8
Kicks: J Stein 17.1, J Fahey 16.2, J Brander 14.5
Marks: J Brander 9.3, J Wehr 7.0, R Hebron 6.9
Handballs: J Green 11.9, J Brander 9.1, B Stewart 7.8
Tackles: B Stewart 4.8, X O’Halloran 4.7, L Chisholm 4.4
Hitouts: B Preuss 32.2, K Briggs 22.3, J Green 2.1
Clearances: K Briggs 4.9, J Green 4.6, B Preuss 4.3
Inside-50s: B Preuss 5.5, X O’Halloran 5.3, K Briggs 3.2
Rebound-50s: J Stein 8.3, J Fahey 6.2, C Brown 4.2

What went right: The start of the season. After a terrific run in 2021, the GIANTS looked set to take the next step when they flew the gates to be 5-0-1 heading into their first bye in Round 7. The wins included impressive away triumphs against Frankston and Collingwood and they were looking like a genuine premiership fancy. A nice home win over finals-bound Box Hill Hawks and the excellent seasons of Jarrod Brander and Ryan Hebron were about the only other things to smile about.

What went wrong: The Round 7 bye. The Giants lost their momentum with that week off and got progressively worse as the season went on, winning just three more games for the year, two against bottom four opposition. Although four players fronted for every game, they couldn’t get a settled team on the ground, with only eight missing four games or less. They used a league-high 69 players including 25 debutants, with 12 of the top 13 average disposal winners playing no more than six games.

Summary: Do you look at the first six weeks or the last 16? When the wheels fell off at AFL level, they were joined by the axles and the entire undercarriage in the VFL. That first block of games shows they are more than capable at the level – the win over Collingwood was as polished a performance in a big game from any team this year – and it should sting them that four of the five former NEAFL clubs finished in the top five with GWS being the outlier.

Grade: 3.5/10

Jarrod Brander ranked No.2 for marks in the VFL, topped GWS in disposals and was top three in kicks and handballs. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Position: 14th
W-L-D (%): 8-10-0 (88.02)

Players Used: 62 (37 VFL, 25 AFL)
Played Every Match:
D Capiron, M Ling, J McLachlan
Debutants: 28

Longest winning streak: 4 (Rounds 6-10)
Best win: Round 3: Geelong Cats 13.12 (90) def Brisbane Lions 13.5 (83)
Biggest win: 32 points, Round 22: Geelong Cats 10.14 (74) def Port Melbourne 5.12 (42)
Longest losing streak: 7 (Rounds 11-19)
Worst loss: Round 19: Geelong Cats 5.9 (39) lost to Coburg 12.11 (83)
Biggest loss: 63 points, Round 13: Geelong Cats 7.7 (49) lost to Werribee 16.16 (112)

Liston Medal: J Chalcraft 8, S Neale 7, Q Narkle 5
Coaches MVP: J Chalcraft 31, L Dahlhaus 28, O Dempsey 26
Goalkickers: S Neale 33, F Evans 20, J McLachlan 13

Disposals: L Dahlhaus 23.9, J Chalcraft 23.4, C Stephens 23.2
Kicks: N Stevens 15.7, M Ling 12.5, Q Narkle 12.2
Marks: O Tate 6.3, M Ling 5.3, A Byrne 5.1
Handballs: L Dahlhaus 12.4, C Stephens 12.1, J Chalcraft 11.9
Tackles: L Dahlhaus 5.1, C Stephens 4.3, J Chalcraft 4.2
Hitouts: T Conway 19.5, R Abbott 17.4, P Tsapatolis 9.8
Clearances: J Chalcraft 6.1, L Dahlhaus 5.0, C Stephens 4.8
Inside-50s: L Dahlhaus 4.4, Q Narkle 4.3, C Stephens 3.8
Rebound-50s: N Stevens 4.8, M Ling 3.8, O Tate 3.0, A Byrne 3.0

What went right: Despite a disappointing season, the Cats still enjoyed a strong record at home, winning six of their eight matches at GMHBA Stadium. The talented Jye Chalcraft had a breakout season, winning the Vic Fuller Medal and appearing prominently in the leading stats winners for the club. They had what turned out to be a terrific victory over eventual preliminary finalists Brisbane Lions early in the year and won another classic against Sandringham late when both teams were not travelling well.

What went wrong: While the AFL team was charging towards the premiership, the VFL line-up completely lost its way, turning in horror shows against Werribee, Frankston and Coburg on its way to dropping seven matches in a row. Its best and their worst were too far apart, putting in a great effort to almost beat Casey and knock off the Lions but going down badly to the three teams mentioned above and only just scraping past the Bullants, Williamstown and North Melbourne.

Summary: The Cats achieved the ultimate at the highest level, and they did it without too many players putting pressure on for a spot in the AFL team. Luke Dahlhaus, Cooper Stephens, Quinton Narkle and Nick Stevens certainly did, while Shannon Neale showed himself to be a player of the future. It would be interesting to see how Chalcraft went if he got a chance at the highest level. Still strong at home, Geelong struggled badly on the road and its second half of the season was very ordinary.

Grade: 3.5/10

Shannon Neale booted 33 goals to finish in the top 10 of the VFL's Frosty Miller Medal. Picture: Jonathan DiMaggio/AFL Photos
Also in this series:

Yesterday: 1st to 7th
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Twitter: @BRhodesVFL