Sunday, June 25, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 14 2017


In keeping with a major theme of this season that teams that look like they are moving ahead will soon put in a bad performance, Adelaide marked its clear break at the top of the rankings by losing at home this week to lowly-ranked Hawthorn. The Crows still keep top spot in these rankings for now, but Port Adelaide and GWS now look about just as good.
Also showing the even nature of this season is that it doesn’t take much for the teams in the middle to move around a few spots in the rankings. Essendon moves up from tenth to eighth after the narrowest of losses in Sydney, Richmond moves up from twelfth to tenth, Collingwood drops from ninth to twelfth, and Geelong drops from third to fifth after squeaking home against Fremantle.
After three narrow wins this season Fremantle’s luck in close games ran out against the Cats. (As a Richmond supporter I wish Freo’s missed shot at goal near the siren had come against us.) Those narrow wins have been keeping the Dockers much further up on the ladder than they are rated here.
Melbourne’s rating moves a little higher still after its exciting win in Perth against the West Coast Eagles. The Demons are rated as basically as strong as fourth-ranked Sydney and fifth-ranked Geelong. Can they become an actual top-four ranked team – and actual top four ladder team – with a win against the Sydney Swans next week?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 13 2017


End of the ‘bye’ rounds – the mid-season wasteland in the AFL schedule when the football feels very cold, blank, and June-ish. Except the vacant match slots haven’t seemed to have felt as pronounced as previous years. Perhaps it is because of the relatively even nature of the season, with only two wins (OK, effectively three wins given percentage) separating fourth (Port) from fifteenth (Carlton) on the ladder. Teams down the bottom of the ladder have about a one-in-five chance of making the finals – enough to keep the optimistic hopes of fans alight, rather than have them virtually extinguished.
One club which has usually had its hopes already extinguished in recent years is Melbourne, who is now enjoying its highest-ever rankings spot (sixth). Stretches of years at the bottom are meant to yield high draft picks and the best young players to help get a team back up the ladder again. But Melbourne’s stint at the bottom from 2007 to 2010 yielded few long-term players – let alone long-term stars – with Morton (‘07), Grimes (‘07), Scully (‘09), Trengove (‘09), Gysberts (‘09), and Cook (‘10), all gone or virtually gone from the club for one reason or another. At this point the Demons look to be getting good production out of their next generation of high picks (in particular Clayton Oliver), complemented by solid pick-ups from other clubs. More proof that, in the modern AFL system, a team won’t stay down the bottom for years on end.     
Meanwhile, the Demons’ victims on the weekend – the Western Bulldogs – seem to be reverting back to the level they were at before that magical run in the 2016 finals series. As predicted on this blog as early as Round 1 this year (I only highlight the predictions that come true), comments have come about the Bulldogs being ‘off the boil’, even though they are playing at around the same level as they did for most of last year. It’s true that they have dropped off a bit more in the past couple of weeks, but the Bulldogs not being among the top clubs to date in 2017 was not the hardest thing to predict this season.

Monday, June 12, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 12 2017

It seemed likely that, with Essendon getting its full team back this year following the bans from the World Anti-Doping Agency, that ranking systems would underrate the Bombers coming into 2017. What was less predictable though was that Essendon would suddenly start performing like an elite side over the past five weeks. The Dons have gained a whopping 25 ranking points following huge wins against Port Adelaide and West Coast, a win against highly-rated Geelong, and a small loss to GWS on the road (a loss to Richmond was their other result). As a result the Bombers jumped this week from thirteenth to tenth in the rankings, and are less than a point away from positive rankings territory.
Staying in that region of the rankings this week Melbourne and Collingwood fought it out for eighth spot in the rankings, and for a spot in the eight on the actual AFL ladder. Melbourne narrowly won both, in one of the better matches for the season. Can the Demons continue their rise next week against the Bulldogs?
Meanwhile the unpredictability continues amongst the league’s top-ranked sides. Port Adelaide’s big loss to Essendon, and GWS’ loss to lowly-rated Carlton, has given Adelaide a clear break at the top of the rankings – at least until the Crows’ next big upset loss …

Sunday, June 4, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 11 2017

There’s not much happening in the rankings this week, with one-third of the league having the week off. (Under my system teams can still change ranking points even when not playing, as the strength of their recent opponents is revised.)
The gap between the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide at the top of the rankings has narrowed, with the two clubs now rated about the same, while Geelong has crept closer to the top sides with its comfortable win over the Crows.
West Coast has fallen further into the ‘mid-range’ group of the rankings after losing to the lowly-ranked Gold Coast Suns. Conversely, Essendon has moved closer to that group with a decent performance on the road against the GWS Giants.
And Richmond has almost made the long road back into positive rankings territory. Only their three thrashings against the Swans, Giants, and Hawks in the second half of last year are keeping the Tigers out of seventh spot.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 10 2017

This week, now that we are almost halfway through the season, I’ve brought back the ‘change over past five matches’ indicator to sit alongside the ‘change over season’ figure. The main thing to notice is that many of the top teams have come back to the pack over the past five weeks with some less than dominant performances. But since they have pretty much all fallen together Adelaide and GWS retain a clear advantage over the other sides, with the exception of Port Adelaide, who has joined them at the rankings’ summit.
This means that the clubs can be basically categorised like this:
  • Top sides – Adelaide, Port Adelaide, GWS.
  • Second tier sides – Geelong, Sydney (though they’re only mid-range if you take out last season’s results), Western Bulldogs, and arguably West Coast.
  • Mid-range sides – Melbourne, Collingwood, North Melbourne, St. Kilda, Richmond.
  • Lower sides – Hawthorn, Essendon (also mid-range if you take out last season’s results), Gold Coast, Fremantle (they may be in the eight, but they’ve had some close wins and some horrible beltings), Carlton.
  • Way worse than everyone else – Brisbane.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 9 2017

So after the past few weeks of strangeness which team has emerged as the best in the AFL? Adelaide is back on top of the rankings, but with a much diminished lead compared with three weeks ago. The Crows were awful in two of their past three matches, against the Kangaroos and Melbourne, but take away those two matches and they have been the best side so far this season. If the horrible version of the Crows has been put away, never to re-emerge again in 2017, then Adelaide should be hard to stop.

A few weeks ago Greater Western Sydney looked to be the Crows’ biggest challenger. The Giants though have been mediocre the past four weeks. Even though they eventually won three of those matches, those were all narrow wins at home, and none of them were against the top sides this season (though the Bulldogs are the reigning premiers). If GWS cannot recapture its earlier form it will quickly fall into the second tier of sides, no matter what its current, somewhat flattering ladder position may suggest.

The best side in 2017 so far though has been Port Adelaide. Port’s only ‘bad’ performance of the year has been its loss at home to West Coast, otherwise it was decent in its losses to Adelaide and GWS, and downright scary in its five other matches to date. If I had to talk up any team’s chances in this up-and-down year it would be the Power.

Note though that last year’s runners-up (and top ranked side) Sydney has re-emerged as a good team over the past couple of weeks after a horrid start to 2017. It remains to be seen whether the Swans are too far back now to make a meaningful tilt at the flag. If they sneak into the finals though then they could take out a couple of 'second tier' sides along the way.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 8 2017

I don’t know what is going on with this season anymore …

Sunday, May 7, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 7 2017

After making my proclamations last week about which teams were likely to make the top eight and top four at season’s end, most of those teams lost over the weekend. The top two clubs, Adelaide and GWS, both had losses that were surprising to many observers. The other two teams I had marked for the top four, Geelong and Port Adelaide, also lost. Port marked my statement that, contrary to the bookmakers’ odds, it was a better bet to make the top four than West Coast by promptly losing to the Eagles (although it did have a lot more of the attack), which may prove enough to swing their respective positions at season’s end. On the other hand the top eight teams may have become a bit more set with St. Kilda winning against GWS and Melbourne losing to Hawthorn, which gives the Saints a stronger advantage in grabbing what may be the last available finals spot.
Another consequence of the top teams falling – particularly Adelaide’s big loss against North Melbourne – is that the top seven clubs at the end of 2016/start of 2017 (including Hawthorn rather than Port) have now lost ranking points over the course of the season. This is an indicator that the competition has become a bit more even this year. Indeed, based on the standard deviation of ranking points, this is shaping up as the most even season of the post-expansion (Gold Coast and GWS) era. Still I think the finals spots are pretty much settled – there may just be a few more unexpected results than usual along the way …