2023 AFL Team Tiers

While everyone is making ladder predictions, I’m taking the easy way out and grouping teams into tiers.

Given there are groups of teams so evenly bunched, the difference between say, sixth and ninth will be minuscule. Instead of sorting teams into a ladder…

“You have <team> in sixth, that sounds reasonable”
“How can you have <team> finishing ninth and missing finals”

…when multiple positions could be separated by no more than percentage, tiers feel like an easier way to group everyone before a season begins.

There will be some overlap between this analysis and everything else posted over the last fortnight. Think of it like a summary of the pre-season, with some extra analysis on top.


Those on the $10 Patreon tier enjoy first access to this post, 24 hours earlier than everyone else. If you’ve missed how the Patreon will work in 2023, you can find all the details here.

There are a handful of new features to enjoy, plus a refresh of some favourites, and simplified tiers. Of course, the old faithful North Melbourne match reviews will stay the same, the morning after each game.

Here’s the link to the Patreon page.


Tier 1

Brisbane, Geelong, Melbourne, Sydney

I wish I had a surprise for the top tier, but it’s straight forward for now. All four teams are self-explanatory, but there are two points I want to make – one for Melbourne and another for Sydney. Geelong and Brisbane have been covered in depth on the Predicting over/unders for every AFL team’s 2023 win total”>season wins piece.

Melbourne: I’m enthused by their ball movement during pre-season. It caught the eye against St Kilda and was just as good against Richmond. The method – lowering the eyes more often, moving at different angles – was missing for large chunks of 2022 as a 10-0 start gave way to a sputtering 6-8 finish. If it holds, that’s what will propel them back into premiership contention.

Sydney: If Buddy declines at a faster rate than anticipated and Sam Reid is bitten by the injury bug again – both realistic scenarios – how quickly can Logan McDonald improve, or Hayden McLean take a bigger role? Will Joel Amartey be relied upon for double-digit games? Of course it’s a lot of hypotheticals to consider, but that – plus the Grand Final loss intangible – are probably the only things keeping Sydney from a top four finish.

Tier 2

Fremantle, Richmond, GWS, Western Bulldogs, Collingwood, Carlton

The biggest tier to start 2023, there are arguments to be made on every team’s position. Let’s go rapid fire:

Fremantle: Look Back/Look Ahead: Fremantle”>At the end of last season, I hypothesised their departures wouldn’t hurt the best 22 all that much, and the adjustment period would come with their offensive style. It’s so far, so good on the latter, and with an inviting first month they should be able to finetune any issues on the run.

Richmond: Something has been slightly off over their pre-season, but to my immense frustration I can’t put my finger on what’s caused it. However their list still has such a high floor, meaning their only chance of dropping a tier is if injuries strike.

GWS: This isn’t the token ‘bottom side always rises’ placement. I genuinely believe the Giants have all the ingredients in place to make finals. The talent has always been there, and now that Adam Kingsley has streamlined their style they’re primed to catch sides off guard. After their fascinating season opener against Adelaide, their next month brings West Coast, Carlton, Essendon, and Hawthorn. There’s every chance of a 4-1 record.

Western Bulldogs: On all available evidence, they’re a super charged version of the 2022 outfit. It’ll mean some improvement given the talent upgrade at both ends of the ground – whether it propels them into the top tier of the competition is up for debate.

Collingwood: Here’s my theory, and no it doesn’t have anything to do with close games: In 2022, the Pies were a year ahead of everyone with the way they played. That early adopter advantage is now gone because it’s a copycat league. Because of that, they come back to the pack.

Carlton: If I was creating tiers a few months ago, the Blues would have been in Tier 1. But as explained in my Predicting over/unders for every AFL team’s 2023 win total”>over/under season wins prediction, I’m spooked by their pre-season injuries. It’s the only reason they’re in Tier 2.


One of the new features on here in 2023 is the ability to create your own positional depth chart for every club.

It’s available for those on the $5 and $10 tiers, and hopefully everyone finds the tool as useful as I do.

Here is where to find the page.


Tier 3

Gold Coast, Adelaide

It’s awkward having a tier of only two teams, but I couldn’t justify placing the Suns and Crows any higher or lower.

Adelaide have already visibly improved from 2022 – From The Notebook: 2023 Practice Matches”>as explained here – while Gold Coast should do the same with natural internal growth and a fit-again Ben King. The only question is whether both teams have done enough to leap into finals contention, so I’m splitting the difference and placing them here.

Tier 4

Port Adelaide, St Kilda

The first draft of this piece had the name ‘Trouble’ on this tier, but for two different reasons.

St Kilda’s is obvious, and to an extent out of their hands. A plethora of injuries means they’ll start the year with a side far, far away from their planned best 22. As I explained a couple of weeks ago, it’s why I’m staying away from any sweeping statement on their performances for now.

Port Adelaide on the other hand have been disappointing purely from an on-field perspective. As explained in the From The Notebook: 2023 Practice Matches”>Practice Match Notebook, there’s a disconnect in their offensive method and in turn that affects their defence. With a tough start to the year, things could go south quickly.


Before the season officially begins, here is everything from the pre-season on The Shinboner:

North Melbourne’s 2023 season checklist
Predicting every team’s over/under win total
From The Notebook: Practice Matches
North Melbourne’s match review v Western Bulldogs
The 2023 Continuity Rankings
From The Notebook: Match Simulation
Depth Chart page
Rolling Notes page


Tier 5

Essendon, North Melbourne, West Coast, Hawthorn

Frustratingly I had Collingwood in this tier last year and missed the signs of their improvement.

But, and these may end up being famous last words, I can’t see any of these four teams doing the same in 2023.

All four teams look like they’ve accepted where they’re at, knowing they’re still building: either starting from a long way back, still in the early stages of growth, or both.

If I had to pick one of these sides most likely to move up a tier or two, it’s West Coast. You can visualise a path to eight or nine wins behind a combination of home ground advantage, veterans enjoying a bounce-back season, and youngsters progressing quicker than anticipated.

This piece – and figuring out what I missed or got right – will be updated throughout 2023 over on the Rolling Notes page, exclusive to those on the $10 Patreon Tier.

2 thoughts on “2023 AFL Team Tiers

Leave a Reply