It was a rough year for preseason ladder forecasts, with not one of the 56 experts, websites and models tracked by Squiggle managing better than a C+ grade. So, to be honest, no-one should be that proud. Then again, 2020 has presented unique challenges for forecasters, so perhaps it’s surprising that anyone got as close as they did.
Best Ladder: Sam McClure
All year, Nick Dal Santo seemed to have this award on lock, but in the final round, McClure got him by the barest of margins.
McClure’s ladder is, at first glance, not great: He has GWS to win the minor premiership and Fremantle the wooden spoon. But it’s deceptive, because between these bookends, every other team is not far off, with two-thirds within three rungs of their actual position. The two misses in his Final Eight (Geelong and St Kilda) were tipped for 9th and 10th. So it’s not flashy, but it adds up.
Dal Santo’s ladder is ever so slightly weaker across the board, but boasts only one miss in the Final Eight (GWS instead of St Kilda), and three teams within a single rung of their actual finish, including the Crows at 17th.
Runner-Up: Nick Dal Santo
Best Ladder by a Model: Squiggle (20th overall)
It was a particularly bad year for models, who ply their craft by analyzing a fixture that, as it turned out, went up in smoke after Round 1. Eleven of the worst 14 ladders were by models, who were commonly stung by North Melbourne, West Coast and Hawthorn. Squiggle escaped the pit mainly by tipping a bottom-2 finish for the Crows.
Honourable Mention: The Flag (34th overall)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Nat Edwards
Anyone can fluke a good year; true oracles have staying power. Of the 24 forecasters tracked in both years so far, Nat Edwards has the best long-term record, following a 7th-placed finish in 2019 with 6th this year.
Worst Ladder: PlusSixOne
There are things to like about this ladder: Geelong in the Top 4, which many missed, Port Adelaide up at 5th, and Essendon bang on at 13th. But around the middle it’s a disaster area, with Hawthorn and Adelaide making finals just ahead of Sydney, while the Saints sit way down at 16th. There but for the grace of God go any one of us, and there were plenty of wonky ladders in 2020, but someone has to be last, and this year it’s this one.