AFL Prediction & Analysis

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 holidays

Away on holidays for the next week so there will be no posting, sorry.

Also as soon as I got on the plane, the Squiggle bot lost its connection with Figuring Footy, so we are without its tips until I get back and fix it. This means FF will be horribly misrepresented on the top leaderboard until then, unfortunately. But in the meantime you can source FF directly from!

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.

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What do we really know about Port Adelaide?

Hurling People Now is another great AFL analysis site that’s definitely worth your time. My only complaint is that their weekly review goes up so close to the first game, unless you catch it right away, the round is half-over and everything has changed. You should do it earlier, HPN.

This week the focus is on Port Adelaide and why the analytical community is so high on them (even before last night’s impressive dismantling of Hawthorn):

Round 10 ratings

The interesting thing, though, is the footy world doesn’t yet have much a track record for Port against teams in the vast middle tier of either the ladder or strength rankings. They have beaten the four current bottom sides and a 7th-placed Fremantle with a giant asterisk hovering over them. They’ve lost to the top three sides and then to 6th-placed West Coast in a truly weird game.

Source: What do we really know about Port Adelaide? | Hurling People Now

Are West Coast too Dependent on Kennedy?

Figuring Footy on West Coast’s unique reliance on Josh Kennedy:

A narrow focused, key-forward structure has typified the Eagles’ year so far. Unlike other teams who rely on either midfielders pushing up or a multi-faceted forwardline to kick a winning score, the 2017 Eagles have relied on a few key forwards kicking bags, and when they haven’t been able to, the whole team has struggled.

Source: Are West Coast too Dependent on Kennedy? – Figuring Footy

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!

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