It's finally 2023 Grand Final day, with the two best sides of the season preparing to meet at the MCG on Saturday to decide this year's AFL premiership race.

The Magpies entered the last few days of their dominant campaign with much to consider on the selection front, having lost a key piece in their attacking plans to a knee injury, while a reliable veteran fell short in his case for a return from a hamstring strain.

The Lions, too, had much to consider selection-wise but have gone into the Grand Final with an unchanged lineup as a key defender was not risked for the occasion following an ankle setback.

Here, we preview Saturday's tantalising decider; including relevant match notes, selection details, the stories behind the 2023 Magpies and Lions, and much more.


Match notes:

The Magpies were forced into one change on Thursday night following an MCL sprain to key forward Daniel McStay, who is one of multiple heart-break stories of this week.

His absence opened the door of opportunity for Billy Frampton, who is preparing to play his first-ever final in a Grand Final. The former Crow offers Craig McRae's side flexibility, as he is able to play as a forward target or could even move into the backline and allow Jeremy Howe to head up the other end of the field.

However, signs suggest Frampton is likely to be used as a like-for-like replacement for McStay.

Meanwhile, midfielder Taylor Adams represents the other Collingwood heartbreak story, having also been ruled out, as he was unable to overcome a hamstring strain he suffered during Magpies match practice during their week off before last weekend's preliminary final.

Livewire Jack Ginnivan as been promoted to the starting side after being Collingwood's tactical substitute come Saturday at the expense of Patrick Lipinski, who is probably fortunate Adams isn't able to play this weekend. Lipinski was confirmed as the tactical sub ahead of Thursday's selection.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 16: Jack Ginnivan of the Magpies celebrates a goal during the 2023 AFL Round 05 match between the Collingwood Magpies and the St Kilda Saints at Adelaide Oval on April 16, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Rebounding defender John Noble, who played every one of Collingwood's regular season games before being dropped for the qualifying final against the Demons, is joined by Lipinski, Harvey Harrison and Finlay Macrae among the emergencies for the game.

How did the Pies get here?

Collingwood's off-season last October set the Magpies up for success this season, as they welcomed the additions of quintet Tom Mitchell, Daniel McStay, Bobby Hill, Oleg Markov and Billy Frampton in the lead-up to the 2023 campaign.

Each of those four has played significant roles throughout the year for the Pies, with Mitchell supplying in-and-under assistance to Jordan De Goey and Co., McStay providing a solid inside-50 target alongside Brody Mihocek, Hill's manic pressure and everpresent goal threat, Markov's run and dash and Frampton's positional versatility, with the ex-Crow set to play his first-ever final on the biggest stage this Saturday.

Collingwood registered multiple considerable winning streaks throughout the regular season, though entered this finals series off the back of a somewhat concerning 3-3 record through their final six home and away games, prompting queries about their premiership candidacy.

However, with narrow wins over Melbourne and GWS, the Pies are in the decider and shape as the favourite this weekend, playing on their home deck in front of their raucous and adoring supporters.

Brisbane Lions

Match notes:

Despite waiting until the 11th hour before Thursday's selection to give Jack Payne every chance to prove his fitness for selection, the key-position defender missed the cut even thought he was cleared from his ankle injury.

Darcy Gardiner would have been a very unlucky omission in any case, though, given his impressive stint in Payne's absence. The supporting backman was a standout alongside Harris Andrews in defence against the Blues in what was just his third game for the season.

Even though Payne did prove his fitness, Fagan wasn't keen to mix with the side that handled Carlton's forward threats last Saturday as his recovering defender came off little preparation.

Payne ends up joining ex-Hawthorn premiership stalwart Jack Gunston on the sidelines after falling out of the side due to injury. The former sharpshooting Hawk was cleared to play for the preliminary final but was unable to break into Fagan's plans.

Darcy Gardiner during the round 22 AFL match between St Kilda and Brisbane on August 12, 2022 (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media)

Seasoned midfielder Jarryd Lyons is every chance to hold onto the sub role for the season decider, with the likes of James Tunstill, Darcy Fort, Payne to remain on standby.

How did the Lions get here?

The Lions' midfield has been prolific this season, aided massively by the 2022 addition of ex-Bulldog engine-roomer Josh Dunkley, who has provided immense support to the likes of Lachie Neale, Hugh McCluggage, and Jarrod Berry, who have been freed up by the contested ball-winner's presence.

As good as the Brisbane midfield has been in 2023, the Lions' half-backline has been unequivocally superb throughout the course of the year, and it's been in large part because of the work of rebounding pair Keidean Coleman and Conor McKenna.

McKenna's recruitment this pre-season has to be in the conversation for the most impressive of this year, having added more burst and threatening transition to a half-backline that already boasts the pacy, lethal-kicking Coleman.

After some scratchy performance through the middle portion of the home and away season, the Lions thundered into September in purring form, winning their final four regular season matches before knocking off Port Adelaide with ease in a qualifying final, and following that up by running over the Blues on the penultimate weekend of the season.


The Lions got the better of the Magpies on both occasions where the pair met this year, with a Round 4 33-point victory at the Gabba being Collingwood's only loss for the opening dozen rounds of the season.

That game would have the Victorians without a recognised ruckman for their trip north, with the likes of Dan McStay and Billy Frampton forced to lead the way from the middle up against a dominant Oscar McInernery.

Lions forward Charlie Cameron would boot six majors as Cam Rayner supplied four of his own as Brisbane's crumbing attackers got the better of Collingwood's backline on the night.

Nick Daicos was exceptional in defeat with 38 disposals and two goals, while Lions rookie Will Ashcroft led all Brisbane ball-winners with 26 touches.

The second meeting between the pair would come 20 weeks later at Marvel Stadium, with the travelling side chalking up another convincing win to the tune of 24 points.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 06: Charlie Cameron of the Lions celebrates a goal during the round four AFL match between Brisbane Lions and Collingwood Magpies at The Gabba, on April 06, 2023, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

Cameron again led all goalkickers with a further four majors to his name, tall duo Eric Hipwood and Joe Daniher each booted three goals while Rayner again popped up with multiple majors.

Brisbane's forward dominance came as the Magpies were without skipper Darcy Moore through injury while Nathan Murphy's night was restricted due to a setback of his own that evening.

Midfielders Nick Daicos and Jordan De Goey were also absent for Collingwood, seeing the Lions enter the proceedings favoured for the four points.

Saturday's grand final will see Collingwood and Brisbane clash for the third time this year at a third separate venue, with the MCG a ground that hasn't been too kind to the latter in recent years.

The Lions have won one of their past 15 games at the MCG, that victory coming last year in a semi-final scalp of the Demons.

Brisbane have played just two games at the MCG so far this season, recording losses to Hawthorn and Melbourne in Rounds 13 and 18 respectively.

Collingwood, who call the MCG home, will play their 17th game at the venue for 2023 on Saturday.