The round six rule and why being inside the top eight now bodes well for teams

Lyon was bullish post-match, too, saying they had “plenty of upside”, including captain and dual club champion Jack Steele returning from a broken collarbone for Sunday’s big clash with Carlton and Tim Membrey (knee) being better for the run.

The team’s giant spearhead, Max King (shoulder reconstruction), will eventually join them, as will Jack Billings (fractured leg), Nick Coffield (calf) and Zak Jones (Achilles).

St Kilda start round six in first place, and no team in that position through five rounds has missed the finals since the AFL expanded the final-four system from the 1972 season.

Essendon were in that slot at the end of round one, and only two clubs failed to make the finals from that scenario since the AFL introduced the final eight in 1994.

But Bombers coach Scott, much like McRae during Collingwood’s fairytale run a year ago, refuses to jump the gun on what his side can achieve ahead of next week’s Anzac Day blockbuster.

“The competition is telling us that if you are at your best pretty much anyone is capable on their day – and if the opposition is a little off, you are a chance,” Scott said after upsetting premiership favourites Melbourne.

“I just think there is so much to play out.”

That said, the Saints, of all teams, know not to crow too early. They missed finals from a 5-1 start only last season, and were one of three clubs to slump from inside the eight through six rounds to out of it by the end of 2019.

Essendon would not place much weight in the past decade’s six-round rule either, given they either climbed into the top eight afterwards, or fell out of it, six times in that period, including the AFL removing them in 2013 as part of their punishment for the supplements scandal.

The Bombers are the outliers.

Fourth-placed Carlton are bidding to make finals for the first time since they replaced Essendon in September a decade ago, after losing their last four matches in 2022 to miss out by less than a percentage point.

Making this year’s scenario more interesting is that four of last year’s finalists – reigning premiers Geelong, Fremantle, Western Bulldogs and Richmond – sit outside the top eight going into round six.

There is precedent for that many finalists missing out the next year, with Richmond, West Coast, St Kilda and Collingwood failing to qualify in 2021 after the COVID-impacted season.

Three teams have tumbled from the finals the following year five times since 2015, so there is cause for concern for the slow-starting finalists.



  • Fremantle (11th) vs Western Bulldogs (14th), Optus Stadium, 8.10pm


  • Port Adelaide (9th) vs West Coast (17th), Adelaide Oval, 1.45pm
  • GWS (12th) vs Brisbane Lions (8th), Manuka Oval, 4.35pm
  • Geelong (10th) vs Sydney (5th), GMHBA Stadium, 7.25pm


  • Hawthorn (18th) vs Adelaide (7th), University of Tasmania Stadium, 1.10pm
  • Carlton (4th) vs St Kilda (1st), Marvel Stadium, 3.20pm
  • Gold Coast (16th) vs North Melbourne (13th), Heritage Bank Stadium, 4.40pm


  • Melbourne (6th) v Richmond (15th), MCG, 7.25pm


  • Collingwood (3rd) vs Essendon (2nd), MCG, 3.20pm

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