Squiggle on Round 23


You know I don’t believe in the whole idea of Flat Track Bullies, but god damn, Port Adelaide, you are making it difficult. The Power grew ten feet tall upon spotting a spindly, bedraggled Gold Coast, and proceeded to pound the snot out of them, while periodically stopping to flex and grin at nearby girls, and slicking back their hair with a comb. God damn you, Port Adelaide. That’s so uncool.

When Sydney curb-stomped their bottom-4 opponent, they had a little class. They were positively gentlemanly in allowing Carlton to kick 8.9, compared to the Power’s nipple-cripple of the Suns that permitted just 3.2 20.

Port Adelaide’s performance was mainly impressive for its miserliness, since scoring 135 against Gold Coast isn’t that special. It’s only 30 points more than the average team puts past the Suns. As such, the Power go shoooooting off to the right, but don’t climb much vertically. The Swans, on the other hand, see mainly vertical gains after scoring 138 against a significantly better defense.

Gold Coast finish the year as the worst-ranked team, seeing off a challenge from Fremantle.

The Cats and Tigers both had impressive wins. After some accurate goal-shooting against the Saints, Richmond are almost starting to look like a normal team, i.e. one that can score. In fact, the team that Richmond most resembles right now is Geelong, so it’s fitting that they get to Highlander it in a Qualifying Final.

I hope you appreciated my cool detachment in that previous paragraph. I’m like, sure, I write about Richmond making a QF all the time. No biggie. You can’t even tell I have my legs crossed like super tight.

And now for Melbourne. I take no joy in Melbourne. It’s a bit surprising because I was really pissed at Melbourne after the whole Jordan McMahon game thing. But no, apparently I have no more schadenfreude to give. This one sucks, Melbourne. Here is the tragedy of Melbourne in tower form:

And on Flagpole:

Is now a good time to mention that Squiggle was tipping a Swans v Adelaide Grand Final before the start of the year? I feel like yes.

Still no freaking love for the Tigers.

Last year, Squiggle had an impressive 67% hit rate in tipping finals that didn’t involve the Western Bulldogs. After including the Dogs, it was a bit less impressive, going 3-6 (33%). But 2016 was a strange year; the home (higher-placed) team has won finals regularly since 2000, going at about 72%. So you’re normally pretty safe backing them.

Finals previews to come sometime!

Squiggle on Round 20

That was a big round of football!

Sometimes a round is full of crucial matches and they turn out to be close games, so, sure, they’re entertaining, but you don’t learn a whole lot about either team, other than that they’re evenly matched.

Then you have rounds like this one!

Adelaide firmed into a solid, erect position, thrusting firmly into the open, inviting premiership zone. That’s quite a trajectory you’ve made there, Adelaide. There’s a real cockiness about it. It came about after a graphic display against the Power, the Crows taking a liking to the wet, slippery conditions and dominating, especially the behinds (18.22 to 7.4).

Less phallically, Sydney demolished Geelong to move into that part of the chart I should really just go ahead and name THE SYDNEY AREA, because the last season they didn’t spend time there was 2010. No-one else wants to live there, Sydney. It’s really just you and whoever Ross Lyon was coaching at the time. But you keep coming back, year after year.

The week belonged to those two teams, who put a lot of space between them and the rest of the field.

But it was also terrific for Richmond! In fact, I now think Richmond is going to win the flag. This is not supported at all by squiggle. It’s more of a vibe. I’ll explain more below.

It was an interesting week if you’re on Scoring Shot Watch. Essendon’s victory over Carlton wasn’t so narrow (11.18 to 11.10), Collingwood’s over North wasn’t so great (16.15 to 7.15), and GWS really destroyed Melbourne (14.13 to 10.2). Fremantle put away Gold Coast pretty handily, too (12.18 to 10.7).

Gold Coast have had a pretty ordinary second half to the year after a promising start. So have North Melbourne, who were far more competitive a few months ago, even though they weren’t winning games.

And on the chart, Carlton and Freo became one. Think about that for a moment. It’s horrible, isn’t it. There is literally nothing good about that for anyone.

This time of year, the Season Predictor becomes less helpful, because with so few matches remaining, you can just about figure things out yourself. Also it averages out a team’s chances of winning each match, which works much better over the long-term than just three games.

But Tower of Power is always interesting! Lots of movement this week:

Most noticeable is Adelaide turning into a banner ad in the #1 spot. It would take an Adelaide-grade implosion for them to miss from here. Of course, if anyone can do an Adelaide-grade implosion, it’s Adelaide. But top spot is almost certainly theirs.

The trapdoor opened up beneath Geelong, but with games against Richmond (at Kardinia), North, and GWS, they still have a pretty good path to 2nd. And with a 1.5 win break over 5th, things would have to go horribly wrong for them to miss the top 4.

Since Geelong, GWS and Richmond play each other in the remaining three rounds, the effect of each result is magnified. So right now those three teams have a pretty even chance of finishing 2nd, and it will go to whichever of them manages to stand up.

The desolation of Port Adelaide left a lot of room for Sydney and Richmond to move into.

And the Bulldogs still have a remarkable array of plausible finishes! They have a 5% chance or better in every slot from 4th (where Geelong lose a lot) to 11th.

On Flagpole, it’s good night to the Hawks:

And otherwise the usual story. Adelaide are surrounded by premiership cups on the main chart; they are going to be 1st.

Now: Why Richmond will win the flag!

Obviously I’m 100% only writing this because I’m a Richmond supporter. Squiggle doesn’t foresee good things for Richmond in the finals. But this section applies to other teams as well.

It’s all about the killer bye. The bye is bad, for mysterious reasons, and has always been bad, going back decades. More specifically, it’s bad for teams that had a bye last week when their opponent didn’t. There is plenty of data on this: Those teams underperform.

The only mystery has been why the bye becomes good when you get one thanks to a qualifying final victory. In those cases, the bye works like it’s supposed to, and they win repeatedly and reliably.

Until last year, when we had a pre-finals bye for the first time, and after winning Qualifying Finals, Geelong and GWS both lost. Instead, the Bulldogs won the flag from 7th. Now we all know that had never been done before, which is remarkable enough in itself. But what makes it amazing, and a little suspicious, is that no-one came close before.

If the Final Eight system offers a reasonable chance for 7th to win the flag, you would expect, at some point this century, a team to have at least made the Grand Final from 5th or 6th. Not win the premiership; just make the GF. But nope.

For 16 years, we had a near-perfect statistical distribution where the team that finished 1st was most likely to make the GF and win the flag, then the team that finished 2nd was, then 3rd, and then 4th could make the GF sometimes but never win the flag. And 5th-8th never made the GF.

Then in 2016, 7th wins the flag!

It may well be that 2016 was just one of those years, and the Bulldogs one of those teams, and it’ll never happen again. But another explanation is that this answers the mystery of why the Qualifying Final winner bye was good: It was only because it came right at the very end of the year, when all teams were exhausted, which caused the restorative benefits to outweigh the usual negative effect. But since the AFL introduced a pre-finals bye last year, that benefit vanished, and all that’s left is the usual killer bye, where teams that had a week off do worse against teams that didn’t.

This makes me far less certain that it’s necessary to (a) finish top 4 and (b) win a qualifying final to take out the premiership. The fact that the Bulldogs did it last year makes it less certain, and the possibility that it’s due to the pre-finals bye makes it doubly uncertain. It may even be bad to finish top 4 and win a qualifying final.

If so, it’s a far more open race to the flag than anyone thinks. A team like Sydney, in fine form but up against it to make the top 4, has a perfect run to the flag. A team like Richmond, who might finish 4th but be unable to beat 1st in a Qualifying Final, has a much better shot at redemption than history would suggest. And a team like the Bulldogs, or Essendon, who in previous years would be dismissed as just making up the numbers, can actually go all the way if only they find form at the right time.

The only certainty of the finals campaign this year may be that the form team wins no matter where they placed on the ladder.

That aside, the other reason why I think Richmond will win the flag is that statistical analysis like squiggle is only about what’s most likely to happen. Unlikely things happen all the time. They happen all the time in football. I’ve followed the Tigers my whole life and I wasn’t paying much attention to football the last time we were anything like a flag threat, so I don’t want to spoil this one with an over-reliance on what stats say usually tends to happen. I’m going to roll with the fact that anything might.

Discuss on BigFooty!

Squiggle on Round 19

Honestly, Squiggle is no good this week. It was one of the greatest rounds of football in history; I can’t add anything to it with charts.

That’s the good stuff. Miracles happening right in front of your face.

But since we’re here:


A good week for the Cats, who belted Carlton while the Crows, Swans, and Power struggled. It was just a little spoiled by the fact that Adelaide’s last-gasp draw against Collingwood was no good to the Crows for anything other than pride and finishing above Geelong, since now their percentage matters again. Assuming no more draws, that is. Of course, three weeks ago I said, “assuming no more draws,” and there were immediately two more. Teams are drawing all over the place. So who knows.

These 11-goal-wins-over-bad-teams are the kinds of games that squiggle rates and humans don’t. They’re easy to overlook, because you expect the better team to win comfortably. But it’s worth taking notice when the margin is 70-odd instead of 30.

It’s also worth looking at scoring shots. This year I’ve been trialling a new algorithm in the background that will probably take over from the venerable ISTATE-91:12 in powering squiggle next year. One of the main differences is that it pays attention to scoring shots, since teams don’t tend to remain unusually accurate (or inaccurate) for very long. Most weeks it doesn’t make a huge difference, but this week Squiggle 2.0 rates GWS much higher for their 13.20 to Fremantle’s 13.8, as well as Richmond for defeating Gold Coast 14.14 to 10.5. Geelong’s victory over Carlton becomes even more emphatic (18.15 to 8.10), and Essendon (13.19) look a lot more competitive against the Bulldogs (19.13). Also St Kilda get a technical victory against Port (8.13 to 9.9), as do Collingwood over Adelaide (15.13 to 16.7).

Meanwhile, after Adelaide’s slide, Sydney are now rated the #1 form team! Just. That’s based on their strength in home & away matches; finals will be a little different, both because Sydney are unlikely to finish high enough to get home finals, and because they’re more of a defensive specialist than most premiership teams.

A bit of separation has emerged after the top 2, with Adelaide and Geelong likely to claim those spots. Then Port, GWS, and Richmond form a tier, for the moment, being the most likely to take out 3rd to 5th. Sydney are the most likely to jump up alongside them.

On the Tower, the long, snake-like tendrils of Hawthorn are creeping upward:

That’s a pretty significant chance of a Hawks finals campaign for a team that’s spent most of the season eyeing off 17th.

But there’s a bit of a hard line below that, formed by Collingwood. Basically if you’re better than Collingwood, you might play finals, but if you’re worse than Collingwood, you can’t. Also you can’t if you’re Collingwood.

North’s continuation of their long-running curb stomp over Melbourne had the unfortunate side-effect of making a Round 23 SpoonBowl vs Brisbane less likely. But we can always hope.

This week’s adjusted Flagpole has the Swans slip below the Cats! On original Flagpole, as seen on https://live.squiggle.com.au, Sydney are still a clear 2nd. So I’m not sure about that. But we’ll go with it for now:

Discuss on BigFooty!

Squiggle on Round 18


Every week I say, “It was Adelaide’s week,” and you know what? It’s Adelaide’s week. It has to be when they put away the 2nd team while a likely 3rd and 4th in GWS and Port Adelaide turn to water. Literally, in GWS’s case. I was at that game. Super wet. Adelaide missing the Top 2 from here would require something extraordinary, like when Adelaide missed Top 4 last year, or Adelaide failed to finish 1st in 2006. Actually, Adelaide does this a lot. But those are coincidences, probably.

Sydney are rolling on, too. In fact, let’s skip right ahead to the brand new Flagpole, which I redesigned due to popular whinging. This one builds in a penalty based on the team’s likelihood of making finals, so flags can no longer fly high on teams with no realistic chance of making the Top 8. More detail to come in another post sometime. The Swans still sit second even though they have more chance of missing finals altogether than their rivals:

There was an article by Rohan Connolly about how the pre-finals bye may mean it’s better than it used to be to finish 5th-8th, since you get to play more than a single game in a month of football, unlike the Qualifying Final winners, who have to sit around waiting for longer than is really ideal. That would be handy for the Swans, if the year that they get off to an 0-6 start, they don’t actually need to finish Top 4. Then again, if they keep up their current form, they’ll snag that anyway, because this is also the year when you won’t need many wins for 4th.

Speaking of 4th, that’s where Richmond now sits on the official ladder. Squiggle, however, probably won’t have any faith in Richmond until Trent Cotchin is on the dias holding the premiership cup. Oooh. That felt good to write. I mean, squiggle is so down on Richmond, it wouldn’t rate us if the team was jogging a victory lap of the MCG as “Yellow and Black” reverberates around and I cry hot salty tears of three decades of pent-up frustration while hugging the old guy in the seat next to me and it’s the best day of my life, it’s just the best day ever, oh God, oh God.

Squiggle can’t get past the fact that Richmond has the third-weakest attack in the league. To be sure, it’s hard to kick a lot of goals in a swimming pool. But the Tigers have been low-scoring all year, and low-scoring teams don’t win premierships. Sometimes, moderately-scoring teams with excellent defences do it. Not often. Not as often as you’d expect, given how many try. But sometimes. Richmond are far short even of that mark.

Hawthorn showed a lot in dispatching Fremantle away, but given that finals are probably out of reach, it doesn’t seem to mean a whole lot. Aside sticking it to St Kilda over that first round draft pick. That’s something.

I want to be hard on Port Adelaide, because it was another disappointing performance by a team that should be capable of more than this, but I actually watched some of the game and Melbourne were red hot. And losing by 23 points (23 scoring shots to 20) interstate to a team that’s challenging for Top 4 is not too shabby. The Inside 50 count was pretty lopsided. But still, it wasn’t exactly a capitulation, and isn’t reason to give up on the Power.

In fact, the ladder predictor still has Port for 4th. But it’s pretty ridiculous:

Thirteen wins for third place would be obscene and probably won’t happen, not unless we get a long-running repeat of that popular game show from last year, “Who Wants to Drop a Critical Game?”

But what it shows is that it’s wide open from 3rd down to 9th or 10th, and Top 4 spots are going cheap.

It was a brutal weekend for West Coast, who dropped a very winnable game while Sydney, Richmond, Melbourne, Essendon, and the Bulldogs all won. That’s knife-in-the-heart stuff.

St Kilda were up against it with Sydney away, and not really expected to win. But they didn’t look much like a finals team, either, and so also faded, partly because of new pressure from the Hawks from below.

But the Lions won! This raises the real possibility of a last-round spoonfight between Brisbane and North Melbourne. Now that’s entertainment.

Discuss on BigFooty!

Squiggle on Round 17

Round 17 already! The season’s nearly over. Before you know it, there will be nothing on TV and you’ll have to try to get excited about cricket. I just can’t do that any more. I was ruined by the golden age of Waugh, Gilchrist, McGrath, Warne et al. It’s just lucky I support Richmond, so I can follow footy for decades on end without ever being spoiled by success.

Things are getting messy in there. But look at Essendon go! Or even better, look at them on this chart, showing this year’s improvers:

That’s a mighty rise, especially considering how far back they were. And it’s come in fits and starts, with plenty of breakout wins (over Hawthorn, Geelong, West Coast, Port Adelaide, allllmost Sydney, and now St Kilda) and terrible losses (to Brisbane, Fremantle and Carlton). But when the Bombers are on, they’re on, and they’re on track to make the finals:

The other promising thing about Essendon is that they can score. They’re a balanced team, which is good, but they’re erring on the side of Attack rather than Defence, which is even better, because it’s the attacking sides that have proven the more effective flag collectors over the last few decades. Essendon still have a way to go, and can’t afford to take a two-steps-forward-one-step-back approach into September, if they make it at all, but it’s been a really promising year.

It was another good week for Adelaide, who were 7+ goals to the good of Melbourne. That combined with GWS’s loss to Sydney makes for a happy weekend, the only real downer being the increasing likelihood of sharing Top 4 with Port. Because that would mean no home ground advantage in a final, I mean. Not just because they hate them. But also that.

Richmond are tipped for 5th but there’s a big chance that Sydney will swallow up that spot, leaving 6th-9th to be fought out between the Tigers, Eagles, Demons, and Bombers, with the Saints and Bulldogs capable of sneaking in as well.

While the Dogs currently sit 11th on the ladder and are also tipped to finish there, that’s something of a hard floor for them. They’re currently a game and percentage clear of Fremantle, who won’t be overtaking anybody, and two games and percentage clear of Hawthorn, who otherwise might. So things probably won’t get worse for the Bulldogs, but might get significantly better.

It was a horrible result for St Kilda, who were the latest team to pull on the boots of Top Four Fancydom, take one step, and strangle to death on the laces. Not only did they get thrashed and give away the four premiership points to a fellow contender in Essendon, but every team around them except Melbourne won.

Brisbane lost, but not by as much as the squiggle expected, even though it already thought Richmond were filthy pretenders. With North Melbourne’s decreasing interest in playing football this year, the Lions are looking a little less like a sure thing for the wooden spoon each week.

Flagpole! You know how this goes.

Discuss on BigFooty!

Tip Leaderboard after Round 17

The Tip Leaderboard has developed a bit of spread over the last few weeks! PlusSixOne has pulled away to a whopping four tips lead over the next best model, and it’s leading in Bits as well:

Tips Bits

5 8 4 7 6 6 3 5 6 7 3 3 2 8 5 7 7

92 9.5796

4 8 4 7 7 6 3 5 5 7 4 4 3 7 5 5 7

91 8.0603

5 7 5 6 6 6 4 5 7 7 3 2 3 7 3 5 7

88 3.6086

3 8 5 6 7 7 4 5 4 7 4 1 3 6 4 6 8

88 2.7082

5 7 5 6 6 6 3 5 5 7 3 3 3 6 4 6 7

87 4.6444

5 9 4 6 7 6 3 5 4 7 4 3 2 6 5 5 6

87 4.0108

5 8 4 6 7 6 3 5 5 7 3 3 2 6 4 5 7

86 7.3906

5 8 5 5 5 6 3 5 5 8 4 2 2 7 3 6 7

86 4.1921

4 7 4 6 7 6 3 5 5 7 4 3 2 6 3 5 6

83 6.1518

“Bits” from Monash University Probabilistic Footy Tipping rewards tipsters for saying a win was likely and punishes them for saying it was unlikely.

New to Squiggle is Graft Ratings! Head on over for beautiful tips and projections of all kinds. Graft is having what appears to be a typical model year so far, sitting solidly in the 86-88 tip bracket.

And The Arc can be justifiably feeling a little screwed, with the worst tip numbers despite very respectable Bits and MAE (stats available on the main leaderboard page).

Squiggle on Round 16


Pretty hard to complain if you’re Adelaide, since smacking the Doggies while the Giants consummated their weird draw fetish with Hawthorn means that Top 2 just got a little easier. So did Top 1, actually. But if you do want to complain, AND YOU DO, DON’T YOU ADELAIDE FANS, YOU’RE NEVER HAPPY, you would not be thrilled with how Sydney and Geelong phoned in 10+ goal wins as well. Plus those dastardly Port Adelaidians completed their closest, most nailbiting win since mid-2015, winning by just 32 points. Someone told me that last stat and I haven’t checked it. It’s pretty cool if true. It sounds about right.

So there’s a bit of action near the top. This makes a nice change from the last few weeks, which resembled one of those bike races where the dudes are just balancing there, trying not to move, because it’s an advantage to be behind. I still don’t really get that. I mean, sure, there’s less drag, but sometimes the second rider isn’t even that close. Like how much benefit can there really be. But every time, all of a sudden it’s just ZOOOOOM and he wins.

Anyway, there is actually some danger now of needing a reasonable number of wins to finish on top of the ladder. Not a lot. But some. Of course, it’s still no 1993. Every week I check how close we are to 1993 and discover not very. Then I spend some time admiring 1993. I mean look at this:

That is really ridiculous. The absurd cherry on top is that Geelong were the best team. They spent the last five rounds beating up finalists and then missed finals. They should have won the flag.


It was a super week for St Kilda, who made Richmond look a lot more like the team with the mediocre squiggle than the one that was sitting fourth on the ladder. The Saints have a tough run from here, though, which makes it a battle for them to stay in the top 8. They play the Tigers again in Round 23, and given how close everyone is, that game will almost certainly mean a lot to at least one of those teams, possibly both.

In losing to Fremantle, North Melbourne have finally entered bottom-2 calculations in a big way. Until now, squiggle has been dubious about the Roo’s chances of finishing 17th, because they’re not that bad, and you can’t continue to lose games by a handful of points week after week. Well. When I say “can’t,” I mean, “not very likely.” But this is North Melbourne and they like a challenge.

Collingwood are a chance for 17th, too, which is also new.

It’s a bit grim for the Bulldogs. When a team wins the flag from 7th, after getting beaten up in the final round by a potential wooden-spooner, there’s a temptation to write that off as a kind of freak event. That temptation gets stronger if the team isn’t great the next year. I’m not saying they didn’t deserve the flag. But they look more like a team that outdid themselves when they needed to, rather than one with strong fundamentals.

Flagpole: business as usual. When Adelaide beat Sydney for the flag this year, Flagpole is going to be soooo smug.

And now for a quick retrospective!

It’s unusual to reach this point of the year and have no-one in the premiership zone. There’s almost always someone, even if it’s a team that then spectacularly flames out. Here is Round 16 from the past 10 years:

Sure, so 2016 was a strange year. But at least we had Adelaide and Sydney threatening.

2013-2015: The Hawthorn years, when creativity was banned and everyone tipped 155 winners a year because you could always rely on the Hawks to win games. Children laughing and dancing were banned, too.

2012 was the same but with a trick ending:

In 2011, Collingwood went crazy:


In other years without a standout contender, there’s at least usually a pretty large gap to the field, like this:

In 2009, Ross Lyon wondered, “What happens if you don’t let the opposition score any goals at all?” Adelaide wondered the same thing only less successfully.

And of course 2008 was really boring because Geelong cruised to the premiership with no competition from anyone ever:

No, wait, that was 2007.

So that’s ten years. Plus one bonus one, because it’s funny*:

(* Unless Adelaide supporter.) At this point, Adelaide were 14-2 with a percentage of 172%. That’s 62 percentage points higher than the next team. You would think it’s impossible to lose the flag from there but that team could do anything.

Discuss on BigFooty!

Squiggle on Round 15

There was a Great Pancaking this round, with previously strong Attacks faltering and weaker Attacks standing up. On the chart, this looks like teams coming together on the vertical axis while moving in different directions horizontally:

That gives us a league where teams have very different Defences but on Attack can be roughly grouped as:

  1. Adelaide
  2. Everyone else
  3. Fremantle and Carlton

It was a super week for Richmond, who booked an interstate win over finals rival Port Adelaide while two other finals aspirants in Melbourne and Essendon faltered. As did the Bulldogs, although that result helped West Coast, so wasn’t as clearly positive for the Tigers. You can’t have everything. But it was a perfect storm of results for Richmond, making finals very likely and Top 4 a 50/50 proposition.

For many of the same reasons, Sydney also had a great week, recording a solid interstate win against Melbourne.

At the other end of the ladder, Hawthorn’s win over the Pies was significant, because when you’re competing against teams down there, you don’t need many wins to leapfrog them. Only two rounds ago, the Hawks looked reasonably likely to finish 17th, but after defeating Adelaide and Collingwood, that’s almost certainly not going to happen.

Now! Let’s take a moment to marvel at how bad the Giants-Cats draw was for Adelaide. You would think it was a good week for the Crows: They were the only one of the top 4 to win. But when you’re one of the three top teams, and the other two are playing each other, and you have a superior percentage to both, the one result you don’t want is for them to draw. In terms of deciding ladder positions relative to Adelaide, that’s just the same as if the Giants and Cats both won. (Assuming no more draws.) So that sucks, if you’re a Crow. Last year, Adelaide were screwed out of a Top 4 spot last year by Hawthorn’s freakish collection of close wins, so it would be really something if they get done again.

The Suns and Eagles did well, but it was a bad week for many teams: Melbourne imploded about two seconds after a successful season looked in sight, combining a loss with injury and likely suspension. Essendon did the same thing, at least the implosion part, only more spectacularly, going down to Brisbane at home. Brisbane! Just when you think you know a team.

Collingwood failed in that Collingwood way, where the result isn’t disastrous enough to prove they’re a terrible team, but screws up their season.

And Port Adelaide failed to beat another Top 8 team – which is a bad look, but the Flat Track Bully idea is still entirely mythical, as far as I can tell. You expect a team every now and again to string together close losses to good teams plus thrashings of bad teams just from random chance, without implying any kind of fundamental flaw in their game plan that prevents them from beating quality opposition. The Flat Track Bully idea also seems to contain a healthy dollop of confirmation bias, because everyone stops talking about it the second a result doesn’t fit the narrative, then resumes again a few weeks later as if nothing happened. (See: West Coast.)

So that’s probably Port Adelaide: an above-average team with a quirky results distribution.

Suddenly you need 13 wins for the Top 8 again. Really, though, there are seven teams who could finish 8th without surprising anyone: Port, Richmond, Sydney, Melbourne, West Coast, the Bulldogs, and St Kilda. Add some surprise and it could be Geelong or Hawthorn!

Port are still a good shot for Top 4, but you can see the true horror of their weekend here:

And look! 2017’s one constant, Brisbane, is no longer a dead cert for the wooden spoon. They’re still about 90% likely. But with home games against Carlton, the Bulldogs, the Suns, and North, it’s possible to imagine a future in which the Lions get up off the canvas.

To Flagpole! Sydney’s high position doesn’t look so silly now, does it? No. It does not.

Richmond remain concerning. I mean concerning if you support Richmond. Otherwise they promise a hilarious finals flame-out. The Tigers are coming in with one of the worst Attacks in modern history, and traditionally that hasn’t gone very well.

DID YOU KNOW??? Today’s fun fact! Only the Western Bulldogs have a non-ridiculous chance to finish either first or last. They have a 0.1% chance to finish in top spot and a 0.002% chance to finish last. (Next most likely are Essendon, who have a 0.0005% chance of finishing top, which is 1 in 200,000. For me, that crosses the line into ridiculousness. You may have different standards.)

Discuss on BigFooty!

Squiggle on Round 14

That’s a whole lot of teams nowhere near the premiership area!

It was an open field this time last year, too, but at least we had a few contenders. Most years, there’s usually at least one team snuggled in among a few premiership cups. But this year no-one’s been able to deliver sustained performance.

That makes for a volatile season, and the chance for someone to make a late run, or even do a Bulldogs 2016 and win it from way back. Something dramatic like that.

It’s not 1993-even. But it’s pretty even.

It was a great week for two teams, Port Adelaide and Melbourne, who put together impressive victories while their Top 4 competition in Adelaide and Geelong stumbled. Huh, it feels a little weird to be putting “Melbourne” and “Top 4” in the same sentence. What a world we live in. Anyway, the only thing that could have gone better for the Demons would have been if Fremantle slotted that last goal against the Cats, just to open that door a little further.

Squiggle is very disappointed in Geelong, because it doesn’t rate Fremantle much. So it was a dishonourable victory for the Cats, and they slide toward the middle of the pack.

Melbourne’s rise isn’t great news for Sydney, who play them this week. That one should be a great match.

Port get reward for a solid victory over Collingwood, again rolling out a very strong defensive effort in keeping the Pies to 9.8 62. Collingwood really have gone nowhere this year: they’re almost exactly where they started, and haven’t journeyed anywhere in the meantime. West Coast are similar.

Essendon, on the other hand, get better each week! Losing to the Swans in Sydney by a single point is good enough to send the Bombers flying up, up, again, like they have each week since Round 7 with the sole exception of their Round 10 loss to Richmond.

Things are very close in a few key areas there, and the Tower of Power (which is generated by a slower, more thorough series of simulations) disagrees, thinking GWS are more likely to snag an extra win and finish ahead of the Crows, Geelong will hold onto a Top 4 spot, and the Bulldogs will make the finals at West Coast’s expense:

Adelaide’s loss hurts their chances of finishing top quite a lot, partly because of missing the four points, and partly because what does it say when you lose at home to Hawthorn. It says you might not win enough games to finish top of the ladder, that’s what.

Meanwhile, no-one wants 17th! Every time Carlton or Hawthorn look like locking it down, they pull off an upset win.

Meanwhile on flagpole, it’s the same as always.

Discuss on BigFooty!

Squiggle on Round 13

Bula! I’m back from Fiji. It was really nice. I learned to walk really slowly, like I had nowhere in particular to be, because I didn’t. It was like a parallel universe where everything was just fine. I even listened to the start of the Richmond v Sydney game in Nadi Airport and we were 5 or 6 goals up. Then I landed in Melbourne and everything was back to normal.


The real story right now is that the door to Top 4 is wiiide open. There’s a real chance that 14 wins might be enough to break in, and that’s a low number. Last year Adelaide missed out with 16 wins and a percentage of 138%, and West Coast, also with 16 wins, finished 6th. Only once this decade has the 4th-placed team held fewer than 16 wins: Sydney with 15.5 in 2013.

But before then — before the arrival of the expansion easy-beats in Gold Coast and GWS — teams commonly made Top 4 with 15, 14, or even 13 wins. We’re looking at a return to that.

Which means that although the most likely Top 4 remains the same as it’s been for a while — Adelaide, GWS, Geelong, and Port Adelaide — we aren’t far away from a world in which Melbourne squeeze in there, or Richmond, or one of a number of other teams.

The Ladder Predictor tips Port for 4th with 13 wins, but I reckon someone will string together a chain of wins to drive that number a little higher.

Here’s the Tower of Power for the last two weeks, since I missed last week. You can see that there’s no more flattening out at the top, as things have really opened up with the Bulldogs and Port sliding while Melbourne, West Coast and Sydney have pushed up.

It was a huge week for Melbourne, who comprehensively dismantled the Dogs and bounced right up into contention.

To a lesser degree, it was also good for West Coast in beating the Cats, and Carlton in overpowering Gold Coast in Queensland.

The other big change was Carlton vacating a likely bottom-2 spot with wins over GWS and Gold Coast. Hawthorn are most likely to take it, but it could easily go to Fremantle, Gold Coast, or North Melbourne, who have fallen away badly.

Richmond v Sydney was interesting, because they’re two teams the squiggle rates quite differently to public perception: it’s always liked Sydney for finals even when they were 16th, and still doesn’t think too much of Richmond. The game actually played out extremely close to prediction, with squiggle tipping 73-80 and reality coming in at 71-80.

While it’s fascinating to imagine a ladder with Richmond’s close wins reversed, with the Tigers sitting two games clear with 11 wins and 1 loss, the fact is they haven’t been able to beat Fremantle (in Melbourne), a Bulldogs outfit that’s 6-6, and 12th-placed Sydney (also in Melbourne). They also haven’t put anyone away other than Brisbane, North Melbourne, and Carlton. Instead what they’ve mostly done is fight out two- and three- goal wins against middle-ish teams like Collingwood, West Coast (in Melbourne), Melbourne, and Essendon.

To the squiggle’s cold, unfeeling eye, this looks like a mid-tier team with a helpful draw, which has a solid defense but lacks the ability to score freely enough to be a genuine flag threat. If the Tigers can obliterate someone, that will change. But at the moment, it’s too easy to explain their results as within-the-margin-of-error of what you’d expect from a team that’s somewhere around the middle.

And because attack wins flags, the Tigers still look abysmal on flagpole, and the Crows still flap highest:

Discuss on BigFooty!