The AFL has confirmed the season dates for the 2023 VFL season, including a Wildcard Round on the eve of the finals.
The Wildcard Round will provide two teams who finish outside the eight with an opportunity to play finals football.
The round will be played across the weekend of August 26-27, following the home-and-away season.
The top six teams will receive a week off, with do-or-die clashes to be held between the seventh/tenth and eighth/ninth ranked teams.
The two winners will advance to the final eight like normal.
The second-tier competition will commence on the weekend of March 25-26, lining up with the second round of the AFL campaign.
It will finish on Sunday, September 24 where two teams will play off in the Grand Final.
The VFL will have 21 teams in the competition including 14 AFL-affiliate clubs that range across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
AFL Head of State League Competitions Jennie Loughnan described the new round as “exciting”.
“The introduction of the Wildcard Round will provide an exciting new element to the 2023 Smithy’s VFL season,” Loughnan said.
“With 21 competing in the Smithy’s VFL, the addition of the Wildcard Round provides more teams the opportunity to contend for finals.
“We expect the Wildcard Round to create more anticipation and excitement for competing clubs and football fans throughout the home and away season, with more sides remaining in finals contention later into the regular season.
“We are extremely proud of the rich tradition and history of the VFL and its clubs, and are also open to exploring exciting new opportunities, such as the Wildcard Round, for clubs, players and fans involved with the competition.”
Could the Wildcard Round be a precursor for the AFL?
The AFL competition is looking to add a 19th team in the near future, with Tasmania looking likely to land their own team.
Earlier in the year, outgoing CEO Gillon McLachlan downed the possibility of an expanded finals series in the nation’s number one competition whilst he was in charge.
“I don’t think so,” McLachlan said, reported by Fox Sports.
“I think we have a finals series that works for us. I know people talk about different additions and wildcards and stuff like that. We’ve reviewed that. Our supporters like it, we like it, I think our broadcasters like it.
“The best team, in my view, through this system wins. So it will stay.”
However, McLachlan’s imminent departure by the end of the AFL’s inaugural ‘Gather Round… A festival of Footy’ in round five could spell change for the future of the game.