Week two of the AFL finals has been completed with both Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions making their way through to this week’s preliminary finals.
Brisbane produced an upset at the MCG when defeating the reigning premiers Melbourne by 13 points and in the other semi-final it was Collingwood that got the job done when beating Fremantle by 20 points at the same venue.
The Lions will return to the G to take on the minor premiers Geelong in the first preliminary final on Friday night.
Then on Saturday it is the turn of the Sydney Swans and Collingwood, who will go head to head at the SCG with a place in the grand final the prize for the winner.
But now the dust has settled, what can we take away from the two semi-final games that took place last week?
The Lions have struggled in finals over the last few years, but after beating Melbourne by 13 points, coach Craig Fagan believes his side have learnt the hard way.
Brisbane had lost five out of six finals matches under Fagan and that heartache appears to be spurring them on in 2022. Now it would take a brave man to back against Fagan taking them all the way to the grand final.
They had not won a game at the MCG since 2014 as they headed into Friday night’s encounter and were also hit by the loss of star goal-kicker Joe Daniher on the day of the game.
However they still managed to produce a spirited display to pick up the surprise win and set up a preliminary final date with Geelong this Friday.
"I always think you need to go through a process. All the lessons that we've learned in finals over the last few years are starting to come to fruition," Fagan said. "We were getting a bad rap for our finals record and the truth is we lost one game by a point and another game by three points [in finals]. We were a whisker away from two more prelims.”
Fagan appears to have instilled a great belief into his side and they seem ready to give the Cats a real run for their money.
The Dockers will be disappointed with the way they bowed out of the finals campaign when losing by 20 points against Collingwood at the MCG.
However they have a lot to be proud about and can hold their heads high after returning to finals for the first time since 2015.
Travelling to Melbourne to take on an in-form Collingwood side at the MCG was always going to be a tall order and on this occasion it proved to be a step too far for the young Dockers side.
But they will learn from the experience and it will serve them well as they look to go even further in the 2023 campaign.
Coach Justin Longmuir admitted the occasion and playing in front of 90,000 supporters may have got to his side as Collingwood dealt with the conditions much better.
“It was a big occasion in terms of 90,000 crowd against us, and I thought they had a lot more players who handled that situation over us,” Longmuir said after the game. "A lot went wrong, but when you look at it, they just handled the basics of the game better than we did."
Melbourne looked bang on course to go back-to-back with another premiership in 2022 after winning their opening 10 games of the season.
However the wheels started to come off in the second half of the campaign and although they made the top four, they went on to lose both games in finals to crash out.
Coach Simon Goodwin admits that the Demons have issues that they tried to fix throughout the season. And now he has vowed to fix them in the off-season and come back stronger in 2023.
“In finals your vulnerabilities find you,” Goodwin said.”They find you in big games where it matters and if they're not corrected, they'll keep finding you. We've got to go away and fix it."
It has been a remarkable season for Collingwood, who have turned things around big time after finishing in the lower reaches of the AFL ladder in 2021.
The turnaround in part is down to new coach Craig McRae, who has now set his sights on going all the way and winning the grand final in his first year as coach.
Next up is a tough test against the Sydney Swans at the SCG, but McRae says they hold no fear.
"We're here to win it. One more game and you're in a Grand Final. We're here to win this thing," he said. "We're going to work our butts off to get better every day to give ourselves every chance. We'll set ourselves up and we know what's coming up in Sydney, but we'll give it our best shot."