AFL Prediction & Analysis

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, 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).

Is Patrick Dangerfield having a better 2017 than 2016?

Hurling People Now has one of those weekly previews that I never manage to catch before the weekend but this time it also has some musings on a player-based tipping model with a focus on the remarkable Mr Dangerfield:


So why is Geelong struggling? Good question.

According to Champion Data, Geelong have the equal most players inside the top 25 this year – tied with Richmond on three. However, beyond this elite talent, Geelong seemingly lacks for depth.

Source: Is Patrick Dangerfield having a better 2017 than 2016? | Hurling People Now

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!

Collingwood under Buckley

As part of its weekly wrap-up, Footy Maths has a neat graphic depiction of the slide of the Pies under Nathan Buckley, and a measured take on what it means:

Both arrays of data show a decline since 2012. Collingwood has yet to become a sub-average rated team by the FMI measures, which is a limited positive.

Also, when compared to the Essendon journey since Sheedy, the decline has not been dramatic enough to have been sub-par as the Dons were three times before sanctions were levied. But also, after each dive there was a rally and development. The above chart has much less rallying, and more flatlining.