September 7, 2023

Upsets on the cards: We asked an AI bot to predict every game of this year’s AFL finals series

Forget using a crystal ball, tarot cards or that octopus named Paul. We asked an AI bot to predict how this year’s finals series will unfold, and it came up with some surprising results.

By Greg Dundas and The Bot

September 7, 2023

The Age sports desk asked an AI chat bot who would win the 2023 AFL finals.Credit: Matthew Absalom-Wong
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This year’s AFL finals series will be a cracker … if you believe the predictions of The Age‘s own futuristic footy forecaster Bot-empelli.

That’s right, our sports desk has turned to the burgeoning world of artificial intelligence for a prophecy on the finals.

The good news for footy fans is that “The Bot”, as he’s affectionately known (we opted to name it after a Brownlow Medal favourite rather than calling it James Robot-M after the Sydney midfielder) is anticipating a pulsating finals series.

In fact, according to this high-tech crystal ball, there will be no blowouts in week one of the finals series, with all games to be decided by 20 points or less.

Bot-empelli was armed with a full list of results from the 2023 season, and carefully considered each finals match-up. Let’s have a look at the predictions it made and how they compare to the forecasts made by our own resident footy experts, particularly our leading tipsters dual AFLW premiership player Libby Birch and sports scribe Jon Pierik.

After that, let’s see how The Bot expects the rest of the finals series to unfold.

First qualifying finalCollingwood v MelbourneMCG7.20pm, Thursday, September 7


Summary: “Thursday night Dee-light. Melbourne by 20.”Jon Pierik says: “Melbourne by five points. This shapes as a classic, but Gawn and Petracca loom as the difference against an opponent missing Nick Daicos.”Libby Birch says: “Melbourne by nine points. Close early, but Melbourne will come home strongly with the help of their bullish midfield.”

First elimination finalCarlton v SydneyMCG7.50pm, Friday, September 8

Summary: “Dah, de-dah, de-daah … Baggers in a thriller.”JP says: “Carlton by two points. This will be a thriller, but I expect the Blues will have too much fire power up forward for the Swans.”LB says: “Carlton by five points. Their form has been too good late in the season.”

Second elimination finalSt Kilda v Greater Western SydneyMCG3.20pm, Saturday, September 9


JP says: “St Kilda by one point. The Saints know they need to turn this into a slugfest against the free-wheeling Giants.”LB says: “St Kilda by nine points. Giants have star power but the Saints have Ross Lyon.”

Second qualifying finalBrisbane Lions v Port AdelaideThe Gabba7.25pm, Saturday, September 9

Summary: “The Gabbattoir is a fortress. Lions by one straight kick.”JP says: “Brisbane by 10 points. It’s hard to argue against Chris Fagan’s declaration that this is the Lions’ best chance to win the premiership since he joined the club.”LB says: “Brisbane by 12 points. They have been the quiet achievers all year and have a lot to play for after last year’s disappointing preliminary final.”

The caveats

Of course, like many services in this day and age, Bot-empelli’s predictions do come with disclaimers (some might use the term cop-outs). In the fine print, it outlines these terms and conditions: “Keep in mind that in sports, there’s always an element of unpredictability, and any team can pull off a surprise win on a given day.”


Week two: The semi-finals

With the two Sydney teams eliminated (the robot would probably prefer the phrase “exterminate … exterminated”) and Melbourne and Brisbane progressing straight from the qualifying finals to the preliminary final weekend, The Bot has locked in a couple of dream match-ups for week two.

Good luck to anyone trying to get tickets to the cut-throat semi-final between Collingwood and Carlton at the MCG. It will be huge.

First semi-finalCollingwood v CarltonMCG

Summary: “Watch out Lygon Street, the Blues are into a prelim, and the Pies are gone in straight sets.”


Second semi-finalPort Adelaide v St KildaAdelaide Oval

Summary: “We’ll never stop, stop, stop … it’s Port by 20.”

Week three: The preliminary finals

Now it’s time for the people’s finals. If the AI predictions play out, Melbourne will host Port Adelaide at the MCG and Carlton will hit the road to play Brisbane at the Gabba. Let’s see how The Bot predicts that will unfold.

First preliminary finalMelbourne v Port AdelaideMCG


Summary: “Stock up the champers in the chalet, the Demons win by 10 and are into the granny.”

Second preliminary finalBrisbane Lions v CarltonThe Gabba

Summary: “Lions win by less than a goal, roar into their first grand final since 2004.”

The grand final

So, it all comes down to this. If the predictions above ring true, this finals series will have already been the greatest of all time. Eight games so far – six of them decided by less than two goals, and none decided by more than 20 points. Now, all we need is a grand final befitting this grandstand finish to the season.

Get out the footy franks, party pies and popcorn, it’s time for the virtual AFL grand final.

Grand finalMelbourne v Brisbane LionsMCG2.30pm, Saturday, September 30

Summary: “MC Gee, what a good win! Demons fans can celebrate an epic grand final victory.”

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