SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 26: Jacob Weitering of the Blues runs the ball during the round 11 AFL match between Sydney Swans and Carlton Blues at Sydney Cricket Ground, on May 26, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

As week one of the finals draws closer, anticipation builds for what should be an exciting series filled with the passion to make a run for the flag. Questions surrounding team performances in the finals will all be answered in an exciting weekend for footy lovers across the nation.

Here we break down everything that you need to know about one of the biggest weekends of the year, previewing each matchup, what happened the last time the two sides met, and what is on the line for the winner and loser.

First Qualifying Final: Collingwood vs Melbourne 

A near-sellout at the MCG will hold the excitement of two powerhouse clubs going at it on Thursday night, with AFL finals tickets in high demand. Whilst both have a double chance, you feel this game has a lot more riding on it than usual. Form for both sides has been decent in recent times, but many might argue that winning this game will go a long way in securing premiership favouritism, despite both sides battling with injuries.

Last time they met: Melbourne 8.18.66 def. Collingwood 9.8.62.

In an intriguing King's Birthday clash, the inaccurate Demons prevailed in a close affair, handing Collingwood their second loss at the time. Collingwood had gotten off to a hot start, kicking the first three goals of the game before Melbourne gained control of the match. Jack Viney had a day out for the Demons with a goal, 32 disposals and nine clearances. Collingwood's Jack Crisp was also a top performer with a goal, 28 disposals and 11 tackles. In typical Magpies fashion, however, a late fightback threatened to steal the victory, but the Demons held on to secure a four-point win.

What's at stake? A win seals a home preliminary final at the MCG while also giving the victor an important week off. The loser will take on the winner between Carlton and Sydney to keep their hopes of winning the flag alive.

Game details: 7:20pm local time, Thursday the 7th of September at the MCG.

Collingwood WON BY 7 POINTS

First Elimination Final: Carlton vs Sydney

The MCG is bound to be rocking with the Blues faithful welcoming their side back into September after a 10-year hiatus. But their challenger, the Swans, will be out to kill as they look to make amends for last season's Grand Final loss and get back to the biggest stage in footy. The inexperienced Blues will be both excited and nervous for this matchup as pressure has been building on their shoulders in the lead-up to this year's series. Sydney however, will have lots to prove in this series to show they still have the spark to contend.

Last time they met: Sydney 11.11.77 def. Carlton 6.15.51.

The result of this Round 11 clash was never really in doubt for the Swans, who, despite the low-scoring affair, held control over the match after the halfway mark of the first quarter. Whilst the Swans' defence was lacking in its usual star power that night, they held up Carlton's scoring to steer themselves to a needed win. More questions arose over Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow's goalkicking, with the pair combining for a goal and six behinds in the loss. Jake Lloyd was Sydney's standout with 35 disposals, while a goal and 31 disposals from Sam Walsh was Carlton's main highlight for the evening.

What's at stake? The winner moves on to play the loser of Collingwood and Melbourne in a semi-final at the MCG. The loser will be the first team eliminated from the 2023 final series.

Game details: 7:50pm local time, Friday the 8th of September at the MCG.


Second Elimination Final: St Kilda vs GWS Giants

Ross Lyon has filled the Saints with the belief that they are once again a strong side that can do some damage in the finals. But their opposition in their first final at home in over a decade is no different, with GWS coach Adam Kingsley lifting his side back into finals contention, having built his team to be one of the better defensive sides in the competition, therefore setting up what could be a massive clash of the underdogs at the MCG.

Last time they met: St Kilda 13.14.92 Def. GWS Giants 12.8.80

The Round 10 clash proved to be an interesting one as the momentum swung back and forth between the teams with no one having a firm grip on the game at any stage early. As the lead kept changing, players tired with St Kilda halting any GWS scoring for the last nine minutes of the game. At this point, the Giants found themselves 15th on the AFL ladder with three wins and seven losses with little chance of making finals, while the Saints were sitting relatively comfortably in fifth position. Jack Sinclair topped the Saints performers with two goals and 37 disposals, whilst Stephen Coniglio also had a strong day with a goal and 26 disposals.

What's at stake? The winner moves on to play the loser of Brisbane and Port Adelaide in a semi-final either in Queensland or South Australia. The loser becomes the second team of the post-season to be eliminated from flag contention.

Game details: 3:20pm local time, Saturday the 9th of September at the MCG


Second Qualifying Final: Brisbane vs Port Adelaide

In the only game being played not at the MCG, two sides who have been so close to being part of the final game of the year but have fallen short on each occasion will go head-to-head. It seems to have been said every year in recent times that this Lions side seems like Brisbane's best chance at going all the way. Two home finals guaranteed could be just the spark that the Lions need to roar their way onto the biggest stage. Port Adelaide are in a similar boat, however this season, the Power were largely considered premiership favourites alongside Collingwood and would be desperate to show the league why they earned that title in a statement win at the Gabba.

Last time they met: Port Adelaide 18.18.126 Def. Brisbane 11.6.72.

Port Adelaide's season couldn't have started in a better way. Dominance around the contest set up what was an easy cruise to victory in Round 1 at the Adelaide Oval. A 13-goal second half blew the Lions completely out of the water in what was labelled an important lesson by Lions coach Chris Fagan. Connor Rozee was the top player for Port Adelaide with his goal and 23 disposals. Veteran Daniel Rich was one of the few shining lights for Brisbane with a goal, 26 disposals and 1,010 metres gained.

What's at stake? A week off and a home preliminary final is set up for the winner, whilst the loser will host the winner of the Saints and Giants clash to keep their finals hopes alive.

Game details: 7:25pm local time, Saturday the 9th of September at the Gabba

Brisbane WON BY 48 POINTS
With plenty of great footy on offer, make sure you snap up your AFL finals tickets before it's too late.