Preliminary Final Preview 2021

Although Preliminary Finals have been played since 1991, their role in the finals series has changed over time. The current finals format has been used since 2000, where two Preliminary Finals are played. The two winners progress to the Grand Final.

The two games this weekend will be the 43rd and 44th Preliminary Finals since the current final eight system was introduced.

Melbourne v Geelong

Melbourne and Geelong are the two oldest clubs in the AFL, forming in 1858 and 1859 respectively. Since the formation of the Victorian Football League in 1897, there have only been eight seasons where Melbourne and Geelong have played three times throughout the year (i.e., twice during the home and away component and then once in finals). Here’s a breakdown of those seasons:

  • 1897: Geelong 2-1 (Geelong won SF)
  • 1898: Geelong 3-0 (Geelong won in sectional final)
  • 1900: Melbourne 2-1 (Melbourne won in sectional final)
  • 1950: Geelong 3-0 (Geelong won SF)
  • 1989: Geelong 2-1 (Geelong won SF)
  • 2005: Melbourne 2-1 (Geelong won EF)
  • 2018: Geelong 2-1 (Melbourne won EF)
  • 2021: Melbourne 2-0 (Preliminary Final TBC)

Melbourne got the better of Geelong in their most recent finals game (2018 Elimination Final), but they have never beaten Geelong three times in a season. If you believe in bad omens, the last season Melbourne won both home and away games against Geelong and then played them again in a final, Melbourne lost by 55 points (2005 Elimination Final).

This is the first time Melbourne and Geelong will face off in a Preliminary Final under the current final eight system. It will be the 15th Preliminary Final that will feature two Victorian teams, but the first time two Victorian teams have played in a Preliminary Final somewhere other than the MCG. Let’s take a look at the other 14 all-Victorian prelims.

All-Victorian Preliminary Finals Since 2000

Season Venue Teams Winner Margin
2000 MCG Ess v Carl Ess 45
2000 MCG Melb v NM Melb 50
2001 MCG Ess v Haw Ess 9
2007 MCG Gee v Coll Gee 5
2008 MCG Gee v WB Gee 29
2008 MCG Haw v StK Haw 54
2009 MCG Gee v Coll Gee 73
2009 MCG StK v WB StK 7
2010 MCG Coll v Gee Coll 41
2010 MCG StK v WB StK 24
2011 MCG Coll v Haw Coll 3
2013 MCG Haw v Geel Haw 5
2018 MCG Rich v Coll Coll 39
2019 MCG Gee v Rich Rich 19

Geelong has played in six all-Victorian Preliminary Finals since 2000. Their three wins makes them the equal most successful team in these types of matches (equal with Collingwood). Their three wins came in successive years: 2007, 2008, and 2009. Geelong would go on to win two of three Grand Finals, with Stuart Dew’s 2008 cameo preventing the Cats from winning the last game in September three years in a row.

However, Geelong haven’t won an all-Victorian Preliminary Final Since 2009, losing their last three in 2010, 2013, and 2019. On the other hand, their 2009 win was the biggest win in an all-Victorian Preliminary Final.

In contrast, Melbourne has only played in one all-Victorian Preliminary Final. This occurred back in 2000, the year Melbourne last made the Grand Final. They would lose the following week to Essendon by 60 points.

Port Adelaide v Western Bulldogs

Port Adelaide entered the AFL in 1997, so there isn’t as much history between them and their opponents as there is between Melbourne and Geelong. For example, these teams have never played three times in a single season before. However, they have played each other twice in eight other seasons (seven before this year):

  • 1999: Western Bulldogs 2-0
  • 2000: Split 1-1
  • 2001: Port Adelaide 2-0
  • 2004: Port Adelaide 2-0
  • 2006: Split 1-1
  • 2015: Split 1-1
  • 2018: Port Adelaide 2-0
  • 2021: Split 1-1 (with one game to come)

We can see from these records that Port Adelaide have the edge in beating the Bulldogs twice in a season. The Bulldogs haven’t beaten Port twice in the same season since 1999—is this week the time to change that?

The Bulldogs will be looking to their captain, Marcus Bontempelli, to have a big game tomorrow night despite sustaining a knee injury late in last week’s win over the Lions. The magic number is 25, with the Bulldogs a perfect 4-0 against Port when the Bont has 25 or more touches. On the flip side, they are 0-6 when he has less than 25 disposals.

For Port Adelaide, Charlie Dixon plays a key role. When he kicks 3 or more goals Port are 3-0 against the Bulldogs, but only 2-3 when he kicks 2 or fewer goals.

This will be just the ninth Preliminary Final to feature a Victorian/South Australian match-up. It is the first Preliminary Final under the current finals system featuring these two teams. In fact, Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs have never met in a final before this weekend.

Victorian/South Australian Preliminary Finals Since 2000

Season Venue Teams Winner Margin
2002 MCG Coll v Adel Coll 28
2003 MCG Coll v PA Coll 44
2004 Football Park PA v StK PA 6
2007 Football Park PA v NM PA 87
2012 MCG Haw v Adel Haw 5
2014 MCG Haw v PA Haw 3
2017 Adelaide Oval Adel v Gee Adel 61
2020 Adelaide Oval PA v Rich Rich 6

History tells us that Port Adelaide, being the home team, should prevail. Seven of the eight previous Victorian v South Australian Preliminary Finals have been won by the home team. Port Adelaide’s loss to Richmond in last year’s Preliminary Final was the first time the travelling team had won interstate in such a match-up. The clash between Port Adelaide and Western Bulldogs is the first time there has been back-to-back Victorian v South Australian Preliminary Finals since 2003-2004.

Regardless of the results, these should be two fantastic games!