2022 came with plenty of surprises in the AFL, with the end of the home and away season seeing several shock candidates work their way into the top eight, while those tipped as potential premiership contenders failed to make the cut.

Collingwood surprised most with their meteoric rise from 17th to 4th from 2021 to 2022, with rookie coach Craig McRae enjoying a stellar first season at the helm of the Magpies.

Fremantle also sky-rocketed into the premiership race this year, joining Collingwood to perhaps take the place of tipped potential finalists Port Adelaide and Carlton toward the summit of the AFL.

With 2023 likely to follow the trend and see a dark horse rise through the ranks to book themselves a spot in the top eight, we assess the three clubs that have the best chance of returning to the finals frame. 


The Blues were in the top eight from the end of Round 1 all the way through to the final day of the regular season, with a heart-breaking and drama-filled one-point loss to Collingwood seeing Michael Voss' side bow out of the premiership race. 

Carlton were backed to make the climb into the top eight for the first time since 2013 off the back of a promising off-season period of recruitment, however stumbled at the final hurdle.

Adding some more puzzle pieces ahead of 2023 has the Blues again placed among the top half of the competition among the view of most fans, with anything short of a top-eight finish next year to be deemed a failure for the Princes Park club.

Caleb Marchbank, Sam Philp and Matt Kennedy during Carlton training, November 21, 2022. (Photo by Jake Benoiton)

Should their stars remain fit and firing throughout the 2023 season, then the Blues will be in line for a strong campaign, as with any important game, the top bookmakers such as Bet365 will be covering it with attractive bonuses and this could be an opportunity for betting footy fans to think about using Sportytrader's bet365 sign up bonus to bet on the 2023 AFL matches.

Port Adelaide

The Power were the shock club to fall out of the top eight after pressing for a premiership in recent seasons.

Successive top-four finishes, including a minor premiership, had a handful of fans tipping the Power for the flag in 2022, however an ugly start to the season quickly had their premiership prospects dashed.

Ken Hinkley's men started the season 0-5 and struggled to find the form needed to fight for a spot in the finals frame, ending their season with 10 wins and an 11th-place finish.

An exciting trade period that saw the Power secure 2021 No.1 pick Jason Horne-Francis ad premiership Eagles forward Junior Rioli has seen new levels of optimism hit Alberton, with Port Adelaide now set to contend for the premiership as early as next season after their abysmal 2022 campaign. 

St Kilda

Arguably the hardest team to read as we near the new year, with the Saints seen to be regressing come the end of the 2022 season.

Things would take a twist when senior coach Brett Ratten was cut from the club despite his recently signed contract extension, with former Saints coach Ross Lyon brought back to Moorabbin.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 21: Ross Lyon the coach of the Saints speaks to Robert Harvey the assistant coach during a St Kilda Saints AFL training session at RSEA Park on November 21, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Lyon's arrival has seen a spike in enthusiasm among Saints fans, leading to some fans believing they'll be better placed under the well-rated mentor.

If Lyon can get the best out of his list in 2023, then the Saints could very easily find themselves back in the top eight next year.