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!

Squiggle on Round 11


A good week for Geelong, who were able to lock away a win over major competitor Adelaide. They and Port Adelaide were the only teams at the top to have a positive week.

But the Giants have a lot going for them right now! By rights, their injury crisis should have seen them drop a couple of games, and then we’d be debating whether they could claw those back when they get more talent back on the park. But no. They skate along, winning all the close ones, keeping their chances of playing home finals intact.

GWS are the most balanced team in contention, and their squiggle shows where they go when they have something approaching full strength. That all makes for a very formidable combination come September.

Aside from that, not a whole lot of action this week, with results shaking out more or less as expected. The Tigers and Bombers did well, though, and it was especially handy for Richmond that the Kennedy-less Eagles are struggling, as those two teams are both fairly likely to finish 5th-8th, where home finals matter.

Gold Coast’s win sent Sydney to 16th on the ladder on the weekend, so Squiggle is looking for one heck of a run from the Swans from here.

At this point it’s very likely that the top 3 will come from GWS, Adelaide, Port Adelaide, Geelong, and the Bulldogs. That’s also the most likely top 5, but there’s much more uncertainty in the 4th and 5th slots, with the Dogs in particular capable of plausibly finishing just about anywhere.

Flagpole still likes Adelaide.

Discuss on BigFooty!

Squiggle on Round 10

Only one genuine upset this week, for a change, with the Hawks surprising Sydney at the SCG. Aside from that, we had two games that always looked likely to be close (Geelong pipping Port Adelaide and the Giants scraping home against the Eagles) plus a bunch of wins by favourites.

But there was still plenty of chart movement, with some of those wins turning out to be bigger than expected:

It was Adelaide’s week, since a 100 point win is always a big deal, even when it comes at home against Fremantle, a team that should never have been allowed to pretend it was 5th. I mean, it’s Round 10, for God’s sake. We had North Melbourne on top and undefeated this time last year and that still wasn’t as absurd as the Dockers’ ladder position.

Fremantle remain above Port Adelaide on the ladder, separated by one win (in the Dockers’ favour) and 62.9 percentage points (in Port’s). This is pretty crazy. Either one of Fremantle being top 8 with a percentage of 81.5% and Port being outside the top 7 with 144.4% would be remarkable. Currently we have both at once.

The Western Bulldogs had a good week, too, keeping St Kilda to just 50 points. That’s worth some significant sideways squiggling.

There’s actually a bit of lateral spread on the chart this week, with defensive teams defending and attacking teams attacking. The Bulldogs and Tigers in particular were defensive specialists last year and are headed that way again in 2017. And going in the other direction are North Melbourne and the Gold Coast, who have leaned towards attack in the past and still seem to be going that way.

Sydney are more balanced in 2017, but only because their defence has fallen away, which makes them look more like a normal team instead of the defensive specialist they’ve been for most of this century.

The Swans remain a surprisingly good prospect for finals, though. They’re 15th, and with the bye next week, will be 16th if Gold Coast beat the Eagles. That should rule them out completely, with the Bulldogs up next, and a bunch of other contenders in their run home, including the Giants, Cats, and Crows, the Hawks in Melbourne again, and the Tigers at the MCG. But despite all that, they’ve shown enough fight that it’s still plausible that they go 8-4 from here. And 11 wins may be enough to finish 8th.

Similarly, North Melbourne are going along all right. Their 0-5 start hides a bunch of very close losses, and the fact that they’ve been a much stronger team than most people expected in 2017.

Squiggle is still fairly pessimistic on Richmond, with the Tigers failing to put anything really convincing on the scoreboard against Essendon. But they did win! That was nice.

As a random oddity, Richmond are what you get if you combine Brisbane’s attack with Adelaide’s defence. Which sounds horrible, but actually isn’t that bad. So if Richmond and Brisbane played the same team, they would kick the same score, but Richmond would keep the opposition to less. And if Richmond and Adelaide played the same team, they would keep the opposition to the same score, but Adelaide would kick more themselves.

E.g. Squiggle tip at home vs West Coast:

  • Brisbane 81 – 122 West Coast
  • Richmond 81 – 78 West Coast
  • Adelaide 112 – 78 West Coast

Port Adelaide were expected to just fall short against the Cats, so don’t move anywhere much on the chart. But dropping a 50/50 game is bad news for your ladder position, so it hurt their top-2 prospects quite a lot. Especially since Adelaide and GWS both won.

And who’s still #1 on Flagpole? Yes! That’s right!

Discuss on BigFooty!


Squiggle on Round 9


Everyone knows the AFL ladder is a filthy liar until at least the halfway mark of the season, but right now it has its own alt-right web show advertising male vitality pills. The official ladder is so full of crap, it could and should be dumped outside Punt Road as a warning for the Richmond coach.

More on that later. It was a great week for Sydney, who came to Melbourne to face a red hot St Kilda, and played like they just remembered they were a pre-season flag favourite.

It was also an excellent week for Essendon, who put the Eagles down by 10 goals.

Adelaide returned to the winners’ list, although an 80-point victory over Brisbane was only par. Maybe even below par, if you consider the number of Lions scoring shots. Still, that was better than GWS, who managed to extract a win from their game against the Tigers only after a twist of fate so heinous, DVDs of the game should only be allowed to be sold under the counter in Canberra. I just want to say, it goes to show that the Geneva Convention has a long way to go before the world can be truly free of acts of horrific torture and abuse. Also that when you think you’ve been hurt so badly you can never feel anything again, you actually can. You can.

I’m going to the Dreamtime game this weekend and I already feel twitchy and fragile, like I’m coming home to an abusive husband, and the house is dark, and I’m pushing open the door and I just know he’s in there somewhere, sitting in his chair, smoking. I just hope this time he’ll be good to me.

Anyway. After three wins by minuscule margins, the Giants are flattered by their ladder position. They’re also suffering through an injury blight, so it may all even out. But Squiggle thinks close wins are only a little better than close losses, at least in terms of rating team strength. There’s quite a lot of good evidence that the result of close games is a coin toss, with teams winning close ones due to luck more than skill.

Some will inevitably string together a series of close wins or close losses, the same way that if you toss a coin many times, you’ll eventually get a run of heads or tails. But it’s not reflective of an ability to keep doing so, so when this happens, the team’s ladder position becomes deceptive.

Fremantle notably did this in 2015, becoming an incredibly unlikely minor premier, and duly crashed down the ladder the following year. But here they are again in 2017! They’re sitting 5th with a percentage that would make a 14th placed team blush. Certainly a lot of that is because of one terrible game, when they lost by 89 to Port Adelaide. But with victories by 2, 5, and 2 points, and no close losses, they could very easily be bottom 6.

So the official ladder is lying. We’re more likely to wind up with something like this:

And believe it or not, Brisbane are also flattered by their ladder position, with their sole win so far this year coming by 2 points at home against Gold Coast in Round 1. None of their 8 losses have been close.

Port come off the killer bye this week, so that will be interesting. They managed to improve their standing during their off-week, mainly thanks to the Eagles sliding.

We’ve had a super-likely wooden spooner for quite a while, but the race for 17th is coming down to just three teams: Gold Coast, Hawthorn, and Carlton, and most likely one of the latter two.

Flagpole! It’s Crow favouritism, as usual. Flagpole still loves you, Adelaide.

Pray for me.

Discuss on BigFooty!

Squiggle on Round 8


Squiggle is very excited about Port Adelaide this week, because keeping an interstate team to 38 points in one of their home games is a big deal, normally. It may be less so when the game is played in China, and the nominal home team has a whinge beforehand about how they don’t even want to be there. Nevertheless: An excellent defensive performance by the Power, timed for maximum gloating value with Adelaide losing at home.

Adelaide have fallen swiftly for two reasons. Firstly, both weeks they’ve lost by a lot, which is never good. You don’t want that. Secondly, they’ve been held to low scores, when high-scoring was the main thing they were good at. It’s concerning because unbalanced teams (as Adelaide are, being an attack specialist) are fragile: They often win a lot of home & away games, or run close, but come unstuck when it counts. So the task for Adelaide now is to prove that they’re more than a one-trick pony with a trick that’s been worked out.

Melbourne are the other big winner, and Essendon and Sydney had positive weeks. In the Swans’ case, it was the first time all year they outperformed expectations. Lowered expectations, that is. If you keep sucking often enough, eventually the bar gets so low you can’t help but clear it. And clear it they did! So that’s something. In fact, it’s enough to make finals more likely than not:

That’s Richmond sliding out of the top 8, despite their excellent comeback win over the Dockers. Honestly, at three-quarter time, when we were down 35-65, I didn’t think we could win it. Then we kicked 5 goals unanswered goals to hit the lead with only 21 seconds left on the lock – an unloseable position! I leaped up in the stands and cheered my lungs out, thinking, “Wow, this is so un-Richmond-like!”

Oh, but then it was. Suddenly it was all very, very Richmond-like.

Fortunately, at this point, my heart is already about 99% scar tissue. I mean, you can only stab me there so many times before I cease to feel anything.

Adelaide’s grip on top spot loosened considerably this week, and a bunch of teams benefited, because someone has to finish top 4, even if right now no-one seems like they want to. Essendon’s win over Geelong opened up some bottom-2 real estate, with Hawthorn, Carlton, and Gold Coast the most likely buyers.

Fortunately in these turbulent times Brisbane provide some reliability. To Brisbane fans, all this talk of 2017’s unpredictability is probably pretty grating, because every week the Lions are getting beaten by exactly as much as you’d expect.

Speaking of the Lions’ next opponent, Adelaide are still #1 on Flagpole, even if the Season Predictor is tipping them out of the top two.

Discuss on BigFooty!

How Surprising Were the Round 7 Results?

Matter of Stats on just how weird Round 7 was:

Last weekend’s results were certainly, in the colloquial sense, “surprising”, with all nine contests won by the team that was lower on the ladder at the start of the round than were their opponents. But, quantitatively, how surprising were they, and how much more surprising were they than other home and away rounds from other seasons?

Source: How Surprising Were the Round 7 Results? — Matter of Stats

Squiggle has always found Round 7 hard to tip, for some reason. Last week I played with the idea of adding a cap to the declared probability of Round 7 tips just because they’ve always been harder than normal:

But of course I decided, “No, it’s just random noise, there’s no reason why Rounds 1, 4, and 7 should be harder to tip.”


5, 5, and 3 from those weeks.

I mean, it probably is just random noise. I think.