The 2022 AFL season is now over after Geelong won the grand final against Sydney Swans last weekend, but the Cats were not the only success story of the season.
The home and away season was gripping to say the least. Geelong may have pulled away late on to win the minor premiership but up until that point it was a wide open race with as many as five teams in contention.
Even when Geelong went clear, the battle below them was exciting. Heading into the final round of matches second place was still up for grabs, while the top four had yet to be decided.
The same could be said for the top eight so when it came to excitement and drama the 2022 AFL campaign would take some beating.
There are winners and losers in every season in all sports, but now the curtain has come down on the campaign let’s take a look at the main success stories.
Let’s start with obvious one. You cannot win the grand final and not be the number one success story of the season!
However the way Geelong did it was something else. They have been there or thereabouts for years and suffered heartbreak in the 2020 grand final and the 2021 preliminary final.
So to come back this year stronger than ever is some achievement and no-one could begrudge them their premiership success.
They won 16 games on the bounce and the manner of the victory against Sydney in the grand final was outstanding.
There were plenty of success stories within the team as well with Patrick Dangerfield winning his first premiership after years of near misses.
Geelong were superb and deserve all the plaudits that head their way.
The Swans were hugely disappointing in the grand final. They just didn’t turn up. No-one really saw that performance coming following an impressive end to the season.
Most were expecting a close game but it didn’t happen. Even so the Swans have to be listed in the success stories of 2022.
If you had said to everyone connected to the club at the start of the season, would you take a grand final appearance, they would have bitten your hand off.
The way they finished third on the ladder during the home and away season was impressive and they pulled off some huge results along the way.
Therefore they can be very proud of the season they had and can come back stronger next season.
The Dockers returned to finals for the first time since 2015 and although they bowed out in the semi-finals when losing to Collingwood, they have come a long way.
At one point they looked a good bet to make the top four, and still had a chance going into the final round of the regular season.
There are so many positives to take from their season and with a very young talented squad and excellent coach in Justin Longmuir, the Dockers are entering their ‘premiership window’ and should be in the mix for years to come.
Collingwood came from nowhere in 2022 and on another day could have found themselves in the grand final against Geelong.
New coach Craig McRae turned them from a team struggling in the lower reaches of the AFL in 2021 to one pushing for honours in 2022.
They finished in the top four and lost the preliminary final against Sydney by just one point. As heartbreaking as that was, they have come a log way in a short space of time.
The most ardent Magpies supporter would not have predicted that at the start of the year.
The Blues missed out on a place in the eight, but again, considering how they went in 2021, this season has been a success.
Huge strides have been made under new coach Michael Voss and at one point they looked nailed on to return to finals.
A late slump in form cost them their place in the eight but the future looks to be a bright one and they will be back next year.
Meanwhile, the Hawks also deserve a mention for the season they had under new first-year coach Sam Mitchell.
Hawthorn are undergoing a rebuild but their young side performed admirably to finish 13th on the ladder following eight wins for the campaign.
They look set to make further progress in 2023.