Finals footy is well and truly underway and what a start to the campaign we've had. The first week of finals delivered with four crucial games that have shaped the run home. Collingwood and Melbourne kicked off the finals series in style in front of a crowd of 92,636 on a Thursday night at the MCG.

The Blues secured a semi-final clash with the Dees after knocking out the Swans on Friday night in front of a rocking ‘Baggers' faithful of 92,026. The Saints were stunned at the MCG on Saturday afternoon as the big, big sound from Western Sydney continued to build.

Brisbane have set themselves up beautifully for a grand final appearance after comfortably defeating the Power at the Gabba. The Lions will head straight into a home preliminary final as Chris Fagan's men look to make amends for past years' disappointing conclusions.

Similar to the Zero Hanger MVP Award handed out at the end of the regular season, we're set to crown a Zero Hanger Finals MVP also. The award will be given to the player we deem to be the best over the course of the 2023 AFL Finals Series.

Unanimous votes were given out to one player in every game with standouts emerging early. Despite the loss, Demon skipper Max Gawn polled a perfect 20, along with Blues midfielder Sam Walsh, Tom Green for the Giants and Hugh McCluggage for the Lions. Gawn was the only player given a perfect 20 on a losing side.

Reminder: Votes are given out in a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 system for each game, meaning the maximum number of votes any player can record in any game is 20.

Collingwood vs Melbourne

The Pies locked in a home preliminary final after defeating Melbourne by seven points. Despite not scoring a single major in the final term, McRae's men held on to keep the Demons at bay.

Midfield dominance from Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca all earned them votes, with the former polling a perfect 20 in his first final of 2023. Gawn racked up an impressive 27 disposals, with most of his dominance coming around the ground against the Pies ruck duo of Darcy Cameron and Mason Cox.

Clayton Oliver led all-comers for disposals with 31 along with 10 tackles. Petracca was a rampaging bull through the midfield with 29 disposals, carrying more of the workload after the early concussion of teammate Angus Brayshaw. Plenty of drama arose from the Brayshaw concussion with the perpetrator, Brayden Maynard, having been sent directly to the Tribunal in a controversial decision.

For Collingwood, Steele Sidebottom earned the most votes thanks to his impressive performance on the wing. The veteran had 22 disposals whilst having 95% of game time – the most of any Pies midfielder or forward. Livewire small-forward Bobby Hill electrified the crowd in the opening term with the first two goals of the game, finishing with three for the night. Key forward Dan McStay provided a contest for most of the night, finishing with a pair of goals himself.

Will Hoskin-Elliott also earned himself some votes, stepping up after an unusually quiet game from first-time All-Australian, Josh Daicos.

Mitch Keating Ed Carmine Jack Jovanovski Nick Splitter
5 Max Gawn Max Gawn Max Gawn Max Gawn
4 Steele Sidebottom Steele Sidebottom Steele Sidebottom Steele Sidebottom
3 Bobby Hill Bobby Hill Bobby Hill Bobby Hill
2 Christian Petracca Will Hoskin-Elliott Christian Petracca Clayton Oliver
1 Will Hoskin-Elliott Christian Petracca Daniel McStay Will Hoskin-Elliott

Carlton vs Sydney

The Blues continued their impressive run after defeating Sydney in a thriller. Carlton was dominant in possession for most of the night but the Swans fought back largely in the final term.

Carlton was led by superstar midfielder Sam Walsh, who tallied up 28 possessions. The 23-year-old impressed in his first final and led the Blues' clearance count for the night. Blake Acres showed his final experience with a truly dazzling display on the wing. The ex-Docker and Saint proved his worth with 26 disposals and kicked the sealer for his side. Leading the Blues in metres gained also with 570, Acres' performance pulled his side over the line.

Cult hero Matthew Cottrell arguably played the most important game of his career. His grunt and determination around the ground were instrumental along with his crucial two goals that he booted. The man with only 52 games to his name was amongst Carlton's best to round out his side's vote-getters.

Although the Swans lost, first-time All-Australian Errol Gulden can hold his head up high. The 21-year-old was clearly the best for Sydney, dominating both on the wing and in the midfield. His field kicking was a standout along with his ability to hit the scoreboard, finishing with two goals. He was joined by big man Hayden McLean as his side's best. McLean finished with a game-high 12 marks and a crucial goal in the dying minutes to give his side a semblance of hope.

Carlton must turn their attention to the Demons in a must-watch semi-final clash at the MCG. Can the Blues continue their hot run of form and topple a premiership favourite?

Mitch Keating Ed Carmine Jack Jovanovski Nick Splitter
5 Sam Walsh Sam Walsh Sam Walsh Sam Walsh
4 Errol Gulden Errol Gulden Blake Acres Matthew Cottrell
3 Blake Acres Blake Acres Matthew Cottrell Blake Acres
2 Matthew Cottrell Matthew Cottrell Errol Gulden Errol Gulden
1 Hayden McLean Hayden McLean Hayden McLean Hayden McLean

St Kilda vs GWS

The Saints had an impressive regular season in 2023, but Ross Lyon's fairytale return to Moorabbin was cut short by the dominant Giants.

The Saints started out hot against Adam Kingsley's side but the Giants proved to be too strong and experienced as the game went on. They were led by midfield bull Tom Green who racked up a masterful 35 disposals. Green also led the game for metres gained with a whopping 705. Alongside Green was veteran teammate Josh Kelly. The 28-year-old showed his class with 27 disposals and two goals. His class was exemplified by an outstanding goal from the left pocket on the run to give the Giants a handy lead.

Rowan Marshall was everywhere for the Saints with 31 disposals. The ruckman seemed to move like a midfielder around the ground, beating the opposition ruck in Kieren Briggs in every statistic other than hitouts and tackles. Skipper Jack Steele tried to will his side back into the contest with a game-high 38 disposals, but it simply wasn't enough.

The Giants' backline was most impressive with key defenders Sam Taylor and Connor Idun standing up when it mattered. The pair rotated on key forward Max King for most of the day, the late out of Saint's forward Tim Membrey aided the Giants pair in keeping the Saints forward line under wraps. Whilst ruckman Kieren Briggs was beaten statistically, his ruck craft was the clear standout. As the Giants made an impressive run in the third term, Briggs's tap-work to his midfield aided the side vastly.

Veteran Bradley Hill put in a solid shift for the Saints. The 30-year-old is a proven big-game player and Saturday's final was no different.

Mitch Keating Ed Carmine Jack Jovanovski Nick Splitter
5 Tom Green Tom Green Tom Green Tom Green
4 Josh Kelly Josh Kelly Josh Kelly Josh Kelly
3 Rowan Marshall Connor Idun Kieren Briggs Jack Steele
2 Jack Steele Jack Steele Sam Taylor Kieren Briggs
1 Kieren Briggs Kieren Briggs Connor Idun Bradley Hill

Brisbane vs Port Adelaide

The Lions booked themselves a home preliminary final after defeating the Power by a whopping 48 points. After slipping up late in the finals for the past few years, 2023 might finally be the year that Brisbane returns to a Grand Final – it would be their first in 19 years. Ironically, the last time the Lions were in a Grand Final was against Port Adelaide back in 2004…

Brisbane were led by midfielder and winger Hugh McCluggage. The Lion impressed with 26 disposals, a goal, and a game-high nine clearances. He also led the game for goal assists and was crucial in moving the ball in transition for the Lions to score. Joe Daniher put on a clinic for his side, booting five goals against a stunned Power backline.

Midfield-forward Cameron Rayner impressed with a dazzling display with 16 disposals and three majors. The former No.1 draft pick proved why he was taken so high as he willed his side over the line. Father-son talent Jaspa Fletcher made his finals debut in impressive fashion. With 16 disposals and three goals himself, he was easily one of the best for the Lions. His performance was made even more impressive by the fact that he's only 19 years old.

Ex-Lions skipper Dayne Zorko showed his experience through midfield whilst also managing a goal. His trademark aggression was crucial for his side and his determination around the ground shone through. Ex-Bulldog Josh Dunkley was solid in his first finals outing as a Lion with a hard-earned 21 disposals, stepping up as Lachie Neale's influence was quelled by Power tagger Willem Drew.

The only man who polled for Port Adelaide was Connor Rozee. He continued his impressive home and away season campaign with a fantastic performance for his side despite the result.

Mitch Keating Ed Carmine Jack Jovanovski Nick Splitter
5 Hugh McCluggage Hugh McCluggage Hugh McCluggage Hugh McCluggage
4 Joe Daniher Cameron Rayner Joe Daniher Joe Daniher
3 Jaspa Fletcher Joe Daniher Cameron Rayner Cameron Rayner
2 Cameron Rayner Jaspa Fletcher Jaspa Fletcher Josh Dunkley
1 Connor Rozee Josh Dunkley Dayne Zorko Jaspa Fletcher