Saturday, September 28, 2013

AFL Power Rankings: Post-Finals 2013

Hawthorn finish the 2013 season with the premiership, and ranked #1, where it spent the majority of both this season and last season. The Hawks have clearly been the best-performed team over the past 24 months, and now have a trophy to show for it.

Fremantle finish the 2013 season as runner-up, and ranked #2 after a good finals series. It would be a much clearer #2 if not for its big Round 23 loss against St. Kilda. Unfortunately, the rankings system doesn't account for 'Ross Lyon resting half his team'.

Geelong and Collingwood dropped the most ranking points during the finals series, while Port Adelaide made the largest gain - obviously these are related developments.

See you in 2014 for a new season and a new spreadsheet!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Building a Better Equal Remuneration Case

Nowadays, it doesn’t seem like a week goes by without an article about the gender pay gap. I saw earlier this week that the Fair Work Commission has engaged researchers to prepare an equal remuneration report. Apart from discussing the concept of undervaluation (of labour), part of the intended scope of this report is to identify the usefulness of the various materials parties could bring to equal remunerations proceedings, and direct parties to key resources which may be relevant to an equal remuneration case. This report is intended to build on previous research for the Commission on this topic.

This all sounds pretty useful. As I’ve said before, determining whether or not specific groups of women and men are ‘undervalued’ in terms of their remuneration is not easy. This research will hopefully have a significant impact in terms of giving parties a base of knowledge and evidence to draw upon for future equal remuneration cases.  Regardless of what decisions are made for such cases in future, this should help in strengthening the claims that underlie such decisions.

What this report will probably not do though is expand the set of resources that are available. In the short-term, that is primarily being left to the Commission’s Australian Workplace Relations Survey. As I said last time I wrote on this topic, I’m not sure that as much of the Commission’s resources are specifically going towards expanding the resources relating to pay equity as originally envisioned by the (former) Government. However, in terms of better using the available information, this latest equal remuneration report looks like it will make a positive contribution.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Alternative 2013 AFL Grand Final Entertainment

Next week, I’m attending my first AFL Grand Final in twenty years, and while I’m pretty jazzed that Hunters and Collectors will be playing, I wonder if there is a bit more that the AFL could do. Why not celebrate football’s biggest day through performances that recount this season’s highlights (or lowlights)? I’d happily skip some beers on Swan St before the game for this line-up.

Patrick Karnezis and the Yeos from the Brisbane Lions – ‘We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place’

Sample lyric: We’ve gotta get out of this place/If it’s the first thing we ever do/We’ve gotta get out of this place/Boys there’s a senior coach for me and you

D-Mar (Dustin Martin) – ‘Take On Me’

Sample lyric: Carr’s talking away/I don’t know what I’m to say/I’m signing anyway/I need another week of time though/Get on the plane/We’re still looking for 600k/Take on me

Peter Jackson, interim Melbourne CEO – (to the tune of the Kaiser Chiefs’ ‘Ruby’) ‘Roosy’

Sample lyrics: Could it be, could it be that you’re joking with me/And you can’t really be with the Dees?/Oh yippee, oh yippee, now you’re talking to me/Please don’t let it be wait and see/Roosy, Roosy, Roosy, Roosy

‘Slow’ Eddie McGuire – (to the tune to Meatloaf’s ‘You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth’) ‘How Did Those Words Come Out Of My Mouth?’

Sample lyric: How did those words come out of my mouth?/I must be able to blame it on Luke Darcy/Oh God those words came out of my mouth/What was I on/When I made that ‘joke’ ‘bout Goodes and King Kong?

The Greater Western Sydney football department – (to the tune of Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’) ‘Get Buddy’

Sample lyric: We want to win more games than one/We know that our list is too young/We’ve more cap space than the Suns/We’re all cashed up to get Buddy

The Essendon Football Club (or what’s left of them) – ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’

Sample lyric: Now the drugs don’t work/They just make you ninth/But we know we’ll see the eight again

Montagna & Jones from St. Kilda – ‘Short People’

Sample lyric: The original lyrics of Randy Newman’s song work just fine here.

BEER!![9] – Murray’s WILD THING

Name: Wild Thing.
Brewery: Murray’s.
Place Of Origin: Bob’s Farm, NSW.
Type: Imperial Stout.
Alcohol Content: 10.0% - a new BEER!! record.
Why I Bought It: It had ten per cent to do with that I’ve liked Murray’s beers in the past. Five per cent to do that I like stout. And eighty-five per cent to do with the bottle having a Catwoman-like figure in a leather suit.
Taste: Despite its 10.0% ABV I don’t remember it tasting it any more alcoholic than your usual stout. But at 10.0% ABV, perhaps the key words here are ‘don’t remember’.
What I did while drinking it: Take a picture of the bottle, and posted it on Facebook so that I could let all my beer-drinking friends know I was drinking ‘Catwoman stout’ and they weren’t.
What I did after drinking it: Played ‘The Walking Dead’ video game, which I reviewed here earlier this week. When the zombie apocalypse comes, stout is what will get the human race through.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Shit Gamer’s Review : The Walking Dead

‘The Walking Dead’ has been one of the most talked about video games over the past couple of years, as evidenced by the fact that I had actually heard of it. It consists of five interconnected episodes in which you take the character of Lee Everett, a convicted criminal, as he tries to survive in another zombie apocalypse. For a zombie game there is actually little action, and for an adventure game there are relatively few puzzles; much of the game consists of event scenes and conversations, some of which you have two or three options for choosing what Lee will say. And therein lies the game’s hook – through the words you say and the choices you make, you can influence how the story unfolds. Other characters will react differently, or even live and die, by what you choose to do at each point. It does really feel like watching a TV show in which you get to ‘be’ the main character.

For a shit gamer like me, this style of game is irresistible. Compared to most other games, fighting off the bad guys is a relatively simple task. Jumping across buildings and manoeuvring along ledges requires just a click on a circle, or tapping away on a single key. There are even huge chunks of the game in which I don’t have to make any actions at all. Never in my experience in the gaming world has my lack of dexterity and accuracy in pressing buttons been less punished.

But ah… isn’t there the stress of being able to quickly make the right decisions so as to get the best possible outcome for yourself and your group of survivors? While it is indeed true that watching the timer run down while I try to figure out what the hell I’m going to say did increase the heart rate a little the beauty for me of ‘The Walking Dead’ is that not only does it not punish you if you are a shit gamer, it does not punish you if you are a shit decision maker either (or if you can’t make any decision). The decisions you make will affect the details of the story, but not its general path; regardless of what you do or fail to do you basically end up in the same place.

All of this may sound a bit boring to those who like to have a bit of agency in their gaming, but to me ‘The Walking Dead’ is brilliant. Like the comic and TV show, watching these characters try to survive is absorbing, but you are even more invested in what happens because you feel like part of the group. Actions can have surprising consequences, and you will not know which seemingly innocuous decisions in early episodes will come back to (literally) bite you or your comrades later on. Also, when the whole game takes about ten hours to play, even the worst gamer can feel like an arcade superstar.  And even with a zombie apocalypse, there was still less death than when I play Super Mario Bros. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Is The Benefit Of ‘Sneaking’ Into The AFL Finals?

AFL media and fans make a big deal out of just ‘sneaking’ into the final eight, and out of just missing out on the final eight as well. In terms of a team’s chances of winning the premiership, just making the final eight has, empirically, next to no benefit – no team has won the premiership from eighth spot since the final eight began in 1994, nor from seventh, nor from sixth. A final for eighth does bring extra revenue of course, though historically only one or two weeks’ worth.

However, some might think there are the lasting benefits of having played a finals match in terms of helping the team win games in subsequent seasons. As a data-based football fan, and not a narrative-based one, my prior belief is that this is a load of baloney, but what do the numbers actually say? Below are the winning percentages of the teams that finished eighth and ninth in every season since 1994 over each of the next three home and away seasons (click to enlarge).

Not that surprisingly, the average home and away winning percentages for teams that finish eighth and ninth over each of the next three seasons are pretty close to 50 per cent. Some teams in the middle of the ladder go up in subsequent seasons, some go down. For example, Brisbane finished eighth in 1997 and finished last the next season, while Essendon finished eighth in 1998 and won the minor premiership the next season. It also won the premiership the year after – the only team since 1994 to finish eighth or ninth to have done so within the next three years.

(Strangely, while every AFL fan is familiar with Richmond having finished ninth several times – six in total – no one really remembers that Essendon has finished eighth almost as many times – five in total – over the same period. More evidence that humans might be psychologically wired to remember losses suffered rather than benefits gained.)

Looking at the averages, eighth placed teams have done a little better on average than ninth placed teams in each of the next three years. But the differences in average winning percentages are not significant.

In comparison, and not surprisingly, the difference in average winning percentages in the next season of teams that finish first and last is significant – that is, teams that are really good one season are typically really good in the next season (though usually not quite as good), and teams that are really bad one season are typically really bad in the next season (though usually not quite as bad). The difference is significant after two seasons as well, but the teams are, on average, getting closer. By three seasons out, the averages are getting towards 50 per cent for these teams as well.

Therefore, the main benefit of ‘sneaking’ into the finals seems to be the extra revenue from playing one or two finals matches, and perhaps the psychological joy from being counted amongst the finals teams (though that is soon followed by the disappointment of being ousted). Or perhaps more correctly - given the way that humans might be wired - perhaps a main benefit of sneaking into the finals is avoiding the psychological anguish of just missing out.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Wooden Finger Five: September 2013

As Stan Smith from ‘American Dad’ once said, MMJ’s singer Jim James’ ‘voice makes Enya sound like a Russian couple arguing at the bowling alley’. Strangely enough though, that episode did not include this track from their album ‘Z’, which has probably his sweetest, most sky-floatingist vocal performance that I’ve heard from the beardy one to date.

This track came to my attention in the past month when, apparently five years after it was released, I saw the trippy, mashed-up video clip. The image of one member wailing ‘How hard must I try?’ morphing into the face of another member matter-of-factly grumbling/croaking (‘groaking’?) the same line is the one that stuck with me the most.   

In my post-Spotify era I’m still working my way through too many old albums to listen to too much new stuff, but I have been listening a bit to Kurt Vile’s new one, which is actually one of the few times to date I’ve taken notice of Spotify’s recommendations. This is actually atypical of KV’s new album in that, rather than being long and daydreamy it’s a modest five minutes long and rocky, which may help it stick out. The yelps at the end probably help it stick out too.

No, it did not take me until the past month to hear this, but it took me until the past month to rediscover it. I never bought the album – ‘All Is Dream’ that this was taken from, which is weird given how much I liked the Rev’s previous album ‘Deserter’s Songs’ … well, not that weird really, I was studying and had to conserve funds. Now, with unlimited music at my disposal, and twelve years more of life etched on my face, I can appreciate more fully Jonathan Donahue’s sighing ‘But you want it all …’

5.    Razorlight/Slipway Fires – Razorlight

Johnny Borrell is, by all reports, a bit of a berk, but perhaps fortunately most of his berkness bypassed me in the mid-2000s. I listened to Razorlight’s first album, ‘Up All Night’ a few years back, and even picked up a half-broken copy from a Borders’ firesale, but I thought that was probably going to be all the Borrell I would ever need. Then I listened to Razorlight’s self-titled second album, and thought it was … (whisper now) … really quite good. But that’s not the true horror; I then gave Razorlight’s much-panned third album ‘Slipway Fires’ a go, just out of curiosity, and (oh no) I liked that as well. Yes, I may well have become a Razorlight fan half a decade after I have any excuse to. My Dirty Projectors CD will look upon me in shame.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Wooden Finger AFL All-Australian Team 2013

Below are my picks for the AFL All-Australian team for 2013. There’s no use pretending these selections are based on an assessment from my watching all of the season’s games, or even a significant proportion of them (I don’t). My main inputs for these selections are reading who everyone else would select, seeing the SuperCoach scores, and my attempts to guess the psychology of the All-Australian selectors. On that score, I think the selectors will tend to favour players who have performed at a high level for the past two or three seasons – essentially if you’ve been in the frame before you’re a good chance to get selected this time – with Chad Wingard and arguably Will Minson and Lindsay Thomas the only picks I have made that have come out of relatively nowhere this season. 

B: Nick Malceski (Syd), Scott Thompson (NM), Michael Johnson (Fre)
HB: Jarrad McVeigh (Syd), Harry Taylor (Geel), Sam Mitchell (Haw)

C: Ryan Griffen (WB), Scott Pendlebury (Coll), Daniel Hannebery (Syd)

HF: Patrick Dangerfield (Adel), Travis Cloke (Coll), Steve Johnson (Geel)

F: Lindsay Thomas (NM), Jarryd Roughead (Haw), Chad Wingard (PA)

R: Will Minson (WB), Kieren Jack (Syd), Gary Ablett (GC)

I: Jobe Watson (Ess), Joel Selwood (Geel), Dane Swan (Coll), Nat Fyfe (Fre)

Also this year, I have put together the 2013 AFL ‘Freakin’ Awesome!’ team. The idea is that this is what the All-Australian team might look like if it was selected by a bunch of 12 year olds, with the only criterion for selection being that the player be ‘freakin’ awesome!’ (Would 12 year olds use the phrase ‘freakin’ awesome’? Probably not … I shouldn’t overestimate my insight into the psychology of today’s kids here.) Basically, unlike the actual All-Australian team, and with a few exceptions, your chances of being selected for this team once you pass the age of 24 become somewhat slimmer.

B: Pearce Hanley, Charlie Dixon, Nick Malceski

HB: Zach Tuohy, Harry Taylor, Luke Hodge

C: Ryan Griffen, Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom

HF: Dustin Martin, Jeremy Cameron, Steve Johnson

F: Cyril Rioli, Lance Franklin, Majak Daw

R: Nic Naitanui, Patrick Dangerfield, Gary Ablett

I: Nat Fyfe, Jeremy Howe, Ivan Maric, Jaegar O’Meara

Sunday, September 1, 2013

AFL Power Rankings: Round 23 2013


Throughout 2013 St. Kilda has been highlighted so much in the ‘Falling Down’ section that it seems only fair to give them a run here after gaining over nine ranking points on the weekend. The Saints moved up to fourteenth spot after thrashing the depleted Dockers to put a positive end on a dismal year. The largest gain over 2013 though belongs to North Melbourne, who gained 24 ranking points and almost finished the home and away season in third spot, despite missing the actual AFL finals.


The Fremantle Dockers fall down to their lowest placing of the year after getting thrashed by the lowly Saints. Dockers’ fans (and others) would no doubt note that their team rested twelve players on the weekend, and therefore their drop in ranking points this week doesn’t reflect the true quality of their team. And they may well be right. However, a similar thing might have been said when Collingwood switched places with Geelong after getting touched up the Cats in the final home and away round in 2011, and that proved to be prescient in terms of the results of the subsequent finals series. Meanwhile, the Dockers’ cross-town rivals, the Eagles drop another three ranking spots, and end up with the largest decline in ranking points for the season.


After very little happened last week in the Power Rankings, nearly early team moved places this week, with the exceptions being the two teams, Melbourne and GWS, who have not moved at all in 2013.

Below is a summary of where each team has been during the course of the 2013 season (click to enlarge). As you can see, most of the movement was in the middle of the pack, in positions 5-10. 

And here is a summary of where each team spent the most time in the rankings this season, along with their highest and lowest rankings, and the variation (standard deviation) in their positions.