The AFL has made the decision to end the VFL home and away season and move straight into finals. (Photo: Williamstown FC)

After an interrupted year with lockdowns across the eastern seaboard, the VFL will be ending the home and away season effective immediately and moving straight into finals.

The Victorian Football League competition hasn’t been able to catch a break in 2021.

After the season’s cancellation in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, this year’s play has been interrupted no less than four times in varying degrees.

With Victoria once again plunged into lockdown until September 2 at the earliest, the AFL has made the decision to suspend the home and away season immediately and move into finals.

Using a win percentage system to decide the ladder as teams have played an uneven amount of games, the eight qualifying teams are (in order):

  • Footscray
  • Southport
  • Box Hill Hawks
  • Geelong
  • Casey Demons
  • Williamstown
  • Collingwood
  • GWS Giants

Eighth placed Frankston move down into 10th using the system, despite holding a better percentage than now seventh placed Collingwood on the same number of wins.

It would have been the Dolphins first finals campaign since 2008, and their first since returning to the VFL after being stripped of their license in 2016.

VFL 2021 Round 01 - Frankston v Coburg
Frankston players celebrate in their round one victory over Coburg. (Photo: AFL)

AFL Head of Talent Pathways and State League Competitions Tristan Salter spoke on the process of making the difficult decision.

“The 2021 season has been a challenge to everyone connected to football,” he said.

“The AFL is very proud of how all VFL clubs, players, officials, supporters and corporate partners managed through a difficult year and kept their communities connected.

“All 22 clubs continue to play a vital role in keeping their suburban and regional networks engaged. We acknowledge the importance they have played as pillars of their local communities and remain so important to growing and nurturing our national code.

“We have witnessed a very even competition so far and the compilation of the top eight presents an exciting Finals Series ahead.

“We will continue to make changes that best manage the current environment, progresses our season and protects the health and safety of those in our game and the wider community.”

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With contingency plans in place should Victoria’s lockdown be extended, the current plan is for the eight team series to go ahead in a knock-out format.

First placed Footscray will play eighth placed GWS, second placed Southport will play seventh placed Collingwood and so on.

Should only a two week series be allowed, fifth through eighth will all be eliminated from finals while first and fourth (Footscray and Geelong) and second and third (Southport and Box Hill) will play off for a spot in the Grand Final.

The current plan sees the Grand Final being held at Marvel Stadium on Sunday, September 19. Crowd restrictions will be instated in line with Victorian Government guidelines.

One of the current challenges posed is how to host games involving the Southport Sharks. While GWS currently reside in Victoria, the Sharks are still in Queensland.

Any team travelling from Victoria to Queensland or vice versa will need to be granted an exemption from the respective state governments.

The AFL is still exploring all possible avenues to get fans back into the grounds for VFL finals footy as safely as possible.

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