Saturday, October 31, 2015

Who Has The Easiest AFL Draw in 2016?

With the release of the 2016 AFL fixture this week, it is time for my annual assessment of the difficulty of each club’s draw. Which clubs have the easiest and hardest draws in 2016?

To recap here is how my assessment is done: a club’s draw is rated by summing up over every match the ranking points of its opponents as determined by my end-of-season AFL Power Rankings, while adjusting for net home ground advantage.

This means the rating for each club’s draw is in effect the result of three components:

-          The effect of not playing your own club: If every club played each other the same amount of times the best club would have the easiest draw and the worst club would have the hardest.
-          Net home ground advantage: This is the net effect of the adjustments for home ground advantage across the season. Not playing your home matches interstate helps out here, as does playing clubs from out-of-town.
-          The effect of which clubs your club plays twice: This is the collective strength of the opponents that each club plays twice. A higher rating for this component means that you have easier opponents in your return bouts.
Putting that all together, the easiness/difficulty of each AFL club’s draw in 2016 is shown in the table below, ranked from easiest to hardest:

And the winners of this year’s fixture are … the Gold Coast Suns. The Suns have relatively easy return bouts, playing Brisbane, Essendon, Melbourne, and GWS twice, with only Fremantle expected to be a tough return engagement.

After years of tough draws Geelong’s can look forward to an easy fixture in 2016 after missing the finals for the first time in nine years. The Cats also get Brisbane, Essendon, and GWS twice, and as always, are considered here to be helped by playing some Victorian clubs down in Geelong.

Port Adelaide, Carlton, and St. Kilda should also be pleased with their fixtures. Essendon should be pleased about which clubs it plays twice, but less pleased about the number of times it travels interstate compared to the number of times it hosts out-of-towners.

At the other end North Melbourne is rated as having the hardest draw, slightly ahead of Adelaide. North Melbourne’s chief executive even admitted to the difficulty of North Melbourne’s fixture, though it is not helped by the Kangaroos playing some home matches in Tasmania. Adelaide, meanwhile, has the toughest return matches against clubs, playing West Coast, Fremantle, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, and Geelong twice.

Reigning premier Hawthorn also has some tough return engagements, playing West Coast, North Melbourne, Sydney, and Richmond twice. But as has been the case for the past few years Hawthorn’s biggest advantage is that it does not have to play Hawthorn. That puts it from having one of the hardest draws to one that is rated somewhere in the middle.

Note again though that the difference between the easiest draw and the hardest draw averages out to about a goal a match. Surely North Melbourne can easily make up that difference with Gold Coast, can’t they?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Wooden Finger Five - October 2015

5.Bob Lennon John Dylan – Phoenix Foundation

This is a fun, fast few minutes of indie pop-rock nonsense from my favourite New Zealand band the Phoenix Foundation. I don’t think the mixing of names is meant to be significant, more likely it just sounded like a funny idea at the time. Moments of flippancy aside, I found the Phoenix Foundation’s new album ‘Give Up Your Dreams’ to be their most consistent, focused full-length to date, and definitely recommend giving it a few plays if you like blissful, melodic indie rock.

4. Ui Yia Uia – No Zu

We were watching the TV show Rage on a Wednesday night, when this strange and propulsive clip showed up. First these guys that looked like they came from a late night 1970s lounge band came in. Apart from the bass and sax, there were keyboards, a guy with curly hair and a moustache playing bongos, and two other drummers for some reason.

Then in the middle of those guys two women started singing in what sounded like a made-up language. It may well have been a perfectly legitimate language, but it sounded made-up the way they sang it; the phrase ‘Ui Yia Uia’ sounds like it comes two miles east of ‘Ganggajang’ to me.

And all the while that this was going on, the camera also panned around these bodybuilders that were surrounding the band. As if the moustache and bongos were not ‘Boogie Nights’ enough.

And somewhere in the room there was also a kangaroo.

When it was finished, not being able to remember either the name of the band or the song, I typed into Google the words ‘video clip kangaroo bodybuilders’ and came up with this article that identified it. I’ve since listened to the track a few more times on Spotify, though a couple of times I’ve mistakenly typed in ‘No Bu’ (a Japanese restaurant in Melbourne) when searching for it.

What a weird and wonderful find.

3.Come Back – Deafheaven

I was first lured into Deafheaven by seeing their beautiful album cover to ‘Sunbather’ on Pitchfork’s year-end best albums list, unaware that they were a heavy metal band. I got about three minutes into the first track, and then my ears rebelled … But something possessed me to give their new track ‘Come Back’ a go, and not only do I like it very much, I went back and listened to more of ‘Sunbather’ again and I like that too. As the Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine have shown me, there is something soothing about ear-splitting white noise when played right. ‘Come Back’ though is more than just noise – listen to the last-third for an outro that compares favourably with Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’.     

2.Academic – New Order

Catching me somewhat unawares, New Order have released their first new album in over a decade, without founding member and bassist Peter Hook. In worrying news for bass players New Order do not sound much different for the change in personnel. Though in part that is because their new bassist seems to have been ordered to play pretty much like Peter Hook. Actually the whole band sound pretty much like they did back in the 1980s, or at least like they did on ‘Get Ready’ a decade and a half ago. ‘Academic’ is yet another New Order track that has a seemingly cerebral title, but is basically about Barney singing of a girl he recalls.

1.Downtown – Majical Cloudz

As I have raved about somewhat incoherently on this blog before, I find Majical Cloudz’s music to be beautiful. Despite the title of their best song ‘Bugs Don’t Buzz’ it has this captivating, buzzing, feel to it, but it’s also very simple and direct, which is a rare feat for electronic music. There are a few tracks off the new album that I could choose to fill this slot, but ‘Downtown’ is my current favourite, though it took a few months of listening for me for ‘Bugs … ‘ to emerge as the standout from the last album. It’s a little bit creepy, dealing with obsession for a lover, but it’s delivered so delicately that the feelings feel more pure than they probably do if you just see them written on paper. If you haven’t listened to Majical Cloudz before don’t let them pass you by this year.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

AFL Power Rankings: Post-Finals 2015

So Hawthorn and West Coast met in the Grand Final, as these rankings expected they would, and Hawthorn came out on top, which was expected as well. Watching the Hawks is kind of like watching a computer at chess. Hawthorn has now finished atop these rankings for a fourth straight year.

North Melbourne was perhaps the only significant surprise in September, or the only other team to raise its form in the past month. Sydney dropped back the most, but it was hit by injuries which likely made it play below its best.

Over the year Hawthorn held the top spot in the rankings for all but one week, all the way back in Round 2. Fremantle, Sydney, and West Coast – the other top four teams after the home-and-away season – were the only other teams to be in the top eight all season. The Eagles making the finals wasn’t a surprise at all to these rankings. The Eagles making the Grand Final was a surprise compared with their position at the start of the season, though less of one after Round 7. More surprising was the capitulation of Carlton and Essendon, particularly the Bombers after the first few matches.

Five teams had a highest ranking of third during the year: Fremantle – who was actually never ranked in the top two despite being the minor premier – Port Adelaide, Adelaide, Richmond, and the Western Bulldogs.

That’s it until 2016!