Monday, November 11, 2013

Who Has The Easiest AFL Draw in 2014?

Once again, upon the release of the 2014 AFL fixture it’s time here to see which teams look likely to be helped/hindered by their particular draw next season. The way I do this is as follows: I sum up for every game a club plays the easiness of their opponent as based on my AFL Power Rankings at the end of the season, while adjusting for home ground advantage. Thus, if a Victorian team plays a Western Australian team with 20 ranking points in Perth I would assign them -32 points in terms of the easiness of this match, made up of -20 points for the easiness of their opponent along with -12 points for playing that opponent on their home turf.

(One adjustment that I’ve made this year in terms of rating each team’s draw is that I’ve adjusted each team’s ranking so that the sum of ranking points across teams is zero. The sum of ranking points across teams is otherwise negative, because I take into account finals games. Anyone comparing my ratings of each team’s draw across years will see that this adjustment lowers the rating of the easiness of each team’s draw, and that these ratings now sum to zero.)

The easiness of each AFL team’s draw in 2014, ranked from easiest to hardest, is shown in the table below:

Therefore, on my assessment, the Western Bulldogs have the easiest draw in 2014, and GWS has the hardest.  The rating for each team’s draw can be broken down into three components:
-          The effect of not playing your own team: As I’ve said before this often gets overlooked in rating each team’s draw. For example, Hawthorn’s draw is made easier by the simple fact that they don’t have to play Hawthorn. (This really kills GWS.)
-          Net home ground advantage: This is simply the net effect of the adjustments for home ground advantage across the season. This doesn’t tend to matter much because each team plays the same amount of ‘home’ and ‘away’ games, though things like how many non-Victorian teams a Victorian teams plays at home, or the Western Bulldogs playing a ‘home’ game at Cazaly Stadium will affect this component.
-          The effect of which teams your team plays twice: This is the collective strength of the opponents that each teams plays twice, with a higher rating for this component meaning that you have easier opponents in your return bouts.
The third effect is really the main point of difference between each team’s draw. The Bulldogs are considered to have a relatively easy draw at this stage because three of the opponents they play twice are low-ranked teams in GWS, Melbourne, and Gold Coast. This is in part because the AFL has, for the 2014 fixture, broken teams into three groups: those which finished 1-6 in 2013, those which finished 7-12, and those which finished 13-18, with the lower groups (in theory) playing more of the easier teams twice. As has already been noted, this has greatly helped Richmond, who fell to 7th after their painful finals loss to Carlton, with the Tigers being granted return matches against GWS and St. Kilda despite being only half a game off a top four finish going into the 2013 finals (as a Richmond fan, I’m all for this!)
On the other end of the scale, Brisbane has indeed been savaged by the draw given their relatively low finish in 2013, while on my assessment Essendon will also have a tough draw in 2014. I’ll leave AFL fans to form their own conspiracy theories on this.