The top four teams in the eight receive what is popularly known as the "double chance" when they play in week-one qualifying finals; this means that if a top-four team loses in the first week, it still has a chance to redeem itself by getting a chance to play in a semi-final the next week against the winner of an elimination final. The bottom four of the eight are forced to play what are called elimination finals, in which only the winners survive and move on to week two to play the losers of the qualifying finals.
In the second week, the winners of the qualifying finals receive a bye to the third week, while the losers of those qualifying finals must play the winners of the elimination finals for a chance to play the qualifying finals winners. Home-city advantage goes to the team with the higher seed in the first two weeks, and the qualifying final winners in the third week, with games in Victoria played at the MCG, regardless of the team's usual home ground.
In the third week, the winners of the semi-finals from week two play the winners of the qualifying finals in the first week, with the latter receiving home-ground advantage. The winners of those matches move on to the Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, where the new premier will be crowned.
St Kilda only earned 4th spot on the AFL Ladder after thrashing Essendon by 108 points in the final regular season match. They entered this match with the double chance and were beaten by 58 points. Onballer Lenny Hayes was booked for striking Geelong's Joel Selwood in the third quarter, a report that was later dropped. Geelong earned a bye and home preliminary final with its win, whilst St Kilda was forced to face Collingwood, a team that they had twice lost to in the regular season, in a semi-final.
For much of the second half of the season, Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs looked certain to finish second and third (in some order), setting up this particular qualifying final; Hawthorn would ultimately be the home team after the Bulldogs' late-season form dropped. Hawthorn won the match comfortably, with Lance Franklin kicking eight goals (the most ever in a final by a Hawthorn player) to earn a week's break, whilst the Western Bulldogs were forced to host the Sydney Swans, whom they had beaten twice during the year, in a semi-final.
Two teams who were early-season top-four candidates were playing for survival in this elimination final played at AAMI Stadium. Collingwood led early in the match but Adelaide got its game going, with a season's best second quarter, to lead at half-time before being run down in the second half. For the second year in succession, Adelaide were eliminated the first week of the finals, whilst Collingwood went on to face St Kilda in a semi-final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
These two teams were clashing in a final for the first time since the 1996 AFL Grand Final, which was won by North Melbourne by 43 points. Sydney entered this match having won only three matches since Round 13, but, after a slow start and an ordinary first half, they got on with the job and ended the Kangaroos' season. It was also the last game for retiring Kangaroo and ex-Swan Shannon Grant. The Swans won the right to face the Western Bulldogs the next week at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where they had not won a final since the 2005 AFL Grand Final. Only 19,127 turned up to watch this exciting match in the pouring rain at ANZ Stadium, on the Saturday night in the Elimination Final, which was a huge dissapointment to the AFL and the AFL Sydney base community. It was the smallest attendance in a final for many years and journalists are critising the AFL because it was played in west Sydney, which is to be the home base of the proposed 18th AFL club. The small crowd here may indicate the AFL will not get a large numbers to many games played at this location by the new team.
Collingwood came into the game as favourites to defeat St Kilda, who had been on the end of a heavy defeat at the hands of Geelong the week prior, and whom they had beaten twice during the year. St Kilda led by just three points at quarter time but kicked ten goals to Collingwood's two in the middle two quarters to take a 40-point lead going into the final quarter. Justin Koschitzke was reported for a dump tackle involving Shane Wakelin, but the charge was later dismissed. St Kilda progressed to play Hawthorn in the preliminary final, hoping to atone for two previous preliminary final losses (2004 and 2005) to make the Grand Final.
Sydney held a one-point lead at quarter time, but failed to score a major in the third quarter, and fell apart to lose by 37 points, thus ending their season at the semi-finals stage. Fullback Leo Barry was booked for striking Shaun Higgins but the report was thrown out. The Western Bulldogs were drawn to play defending premier Geelong in the preliminary final to battle for a Grand Final berth.
Geelong progressed to their second straight Grand Final but had to, for the second year in succession, withstand a late challenge from their preliminary final opponent. The Western Bulldogs had much of the play, but missed shots on goal in the second half when they were available. This was the Western Bulldogs's furthest finish in a season since 1998, when they made back-to-back preliminary finals.
Hawthorn defied a poor recent record against the Saints to post one of their best wins of the season, with strong performances by much of the team making up for Coleman Medallist Lance Franklin being kept to a single goal by Saints backman Max Hudghton. The loss was the 383rd and last game for St Kilda's Robert Harvey who left the game as the most capped player without an AFL premiership.