Lots of validation this week for the squiggle theory that teams don’t suddenly get a lot better or worse very often, with Richmond, Fremantle, and Essendon looking more like their owners put them up on blocks and spent the summer tinkering with the engine, rather than going out and buying a new car.
But not Sydney! Sydney are the strange one: a team that looked like a sports car throughout 2016 but then seem to have traded in for my old “fire engine red” 1978 Gemini.
The 2017 Sydney Swans
The Hawks crashed again, but the only surprise there was how bad it was; we knew they were wobbling toward the middle of the road with the bumper hanging off, but we didn’t know there was a tram coming the other way. A number 96 tram, bound for St Kilda, this week.
But it was all good for Adelaide, who cruised past the Tigers while Geelong lost to the Pies and GWS barely outlasted the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs currently look locked in a battle for a Top 4 spot with Port Adelaide, who also had a good week. In fact, the Power may well have a real vehicle here, as they haven’t had a bad squiggle all year, so could wind up leaving the Cats and Dogs to fight for 4th. But for now, it’s looking like this:
Or in animated form:
Tons of uncertainty through the middle, with many teams capable of finishing all over the place.
It’s worth noting how bad Brisbane are. They were terrible late last year and have been consistently terrible all this year. I keep hearing talk about how improved they are and I don’t get it. Only a handful of teams in the last 10 years have had a sub-40 Defence rating in the squiggle, including the expansion clubs, and Brisbane is just camping out there. It’s pretty hard to find wins when you can’t stop the opposition from scoring.
And for all the talk of the Tigers’ new attacking game style, they’re still a defensive team. A couple of games in the wet haven’t helped, but there isn’t much evidence that they can score well against good opposition.
So after 6 rounds we have:
- Teams with improved 2017 models: Port Adelaide, Richmond, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Essendon, Fremantle, St Kilda (only because of their last game), Geelong (being generous).
- Teams still driving their 2016 models: Brisbane, West Coast, GWS, Collingwood, North Melbourne, Melbourne, Carlton, Western Bulldogs (being generous).
- Teams still driving their 2016 models and there’s this weird noise whenever you brake that you should have had checked out months ago and now there’s smoke coming out: Hawthorn, Sydney.
Flagpole! Squiggle hasn’t rated the Tigers like their 5-0 start would suggest, but the Crows’ 76-point win was still enough for yet another week of “yay Adelaide.”
There was a question earlier about how Sydney can rated so highly when they face a challenge to even make finals. And the answer is yes, this is more or less an “if they make finals, how will they go” rating. More specifically, it’s an algorithm that survived a deathmatch against tens of thousands of other algorithms in a competition to rank the eventual premier highly during the season. It hasn’t been trained to care about teams lower down the pecking order, so long as they’re not bumping out the eventual premier. And it’s completely ignorant of how likely the team is to make finals and whether they get home games or double chances if/when they get there.
I can probably improve this now that squiggle is actually running season simulations, but for the moment, it’s a “premiership form” rating, where it rates highly teams who are most delivering results similar to those of premiers from the last 20 or 30 years.