AFL Prediction & Analysis

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.


Sydney’s path to the finals may be the weirdest ever

The Arc on the fall and rise of Sydney in 2017.  The Swans are one thing the models got right this year: they never looked that bad, even at 0-6.

No team has ever made the finals after losing their first four games of the season, at least not in the period since 1994 when the AFL has had a top eight finals system. The 2017 Sydney Swans didn’t just lose their first four games – they dropped their first six. Given the historical record, the Swans should have no shot at the finals this year, but they’ve clawed their way back into contention.

Source: Sydney’s path to the finals | The Arc

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!

Every Shot in the 2017 Coleman Medal Race

Figuring Footy compares the Coleman Medal contenders:

The injury to Josh Kennedy is dragging on. With Adam Simpson ruling out the two-time Coleman medalist from the Eagles’ elimination final rematch with the Dogs on Saturday, the calf injury that was originally expected to see Kennedy miss just the one game is now stretching into its sixth week. This is bad news for the Eagles, but it does have the positive side effect of throwing the race for the Coleman medal wide open.

Source: Every Shot in the 2017 Coleman Medal Race – Figuring Footy