Sunday, July 23, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 18 2017

In the early rounds of 2017 two powerhouses of recent years – Sydney and Hawthorn – were falling fast. Both lost around three goals worth of ranking points over just the first five rounds of 2017.
But over the past five weeks they have been the two best performed sides in the competition. Based only on their past five weeks Sydney and Hawthorn would both be at around 30 ranking points, better than current top team Adelaide.
There isn’t much more of a point I’m making here other than credit where it is due: the Swans and the Hawks came back.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 16 2017

Earlier in the week The Arc did a post on how much past seasons affect its current AFL ratings. There were a few teams that were notably affected by their performances in past seasons, but in general by this stage of the season it’s the current season that primarily matters. This gave me an idea though:
Working out the effect of past seasons in my rankings is pretty easy. My rankings are just based on a team’s past 22 matches, with more recent matches given more weight. Only the current and previous season matter and, unlike The Arc’s ratings and some other rating systems, teams do not regress towards the average between seasons – Round 1 in the current season just carries on from a team’s last game in the previous one.
The weights given to the previous season’s matches go down during the year. After one round into the season they are still up at about 91 per cent of the total, but after Round 5 they are down to about 60 per cent, after Round 9 they are about 36 per cent, and currently – after Round 16 – they are down to just 11 per cent.
Hence, as you can see from the table below, last season’s matches don’t matter much by this stage of the season. No team gains or loses more than about five ranking points from its results in 2016. Essendon, not surprisingly, is held back a bit by its weak, personnel-affected performances last year. Last year’s grand finalists – Sydney and the Western Bulldogs – are held up a bit by their strong performances in last year's finals series.

An interesting case is Sydney, which as The Arc noted were a top team in 2016 but has performed less well in 2017, particularly early in the season. As you can see in the graph below, when the Swans performed badly at the start of the 2017 their ranking points dropped fairly consistently from round to round as last season’s accumulated points fell away.
However, after Round 7 Sydney’s ranking points have been stable, as its improvement in this season has offset its loss of points from 2016. The result is that the Swans are still among the better teams even without last season’s performances holding them up.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 15 2017

Richmond takes Essendon’s spot in the top eight of these rankings this week. The Tigers had a win over Port in Adelaide, while Essendon lost at home to bottom-ranked Brisbane. It is the first time Richmond has been in the top eight of the rankings since Round 4 of last season.

The Tigers have been consistent across matches this season rather than brilliant in a few. The win against Port Adelaide rates here as their best for the year, with a net margin adjusted for home ground advantage and opposition strength of +41 points. Only the bottom three ranked sides – Carlton, Fremantle, and Brisbane – have a ‘best adjusted net margin’ result for 2017 that is lower than Richmond’s, and Richmond only passed two of those sides with the win against Port this week.

But Richmond has been pretty consistent in its performances. It has the lowest variation (standard deviation) in adjusted net margin across its matches of any side this season, at +23 points. Its worst result this year, in adjusted net margin terms, was its 2 point loss to Fremantle at home (-43 points in adjusted net margin).

In other words, in this even season, Richmond’s season has been the most even of all.

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 …

Monday, May 1, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 6 2017

After Round 6, about a quarter of the way through the AFL season, we have a pretty good idea about the likely finalists in 2017. Adelaide and GWS are almost certain to make it. Geelong and Port Adelaide look the most likely teams to round out the top four, at least according to the rankings (and here as well), though the betting odds slightly favour West Coast and the Western Bulldogs over the Power. (Does this mean I will put some cash on Port for the top four this week? Maybe I will …)
As for fifth to eighth, West Coast and the Bulldogs look the most like filling two of those positions again, with both clubs currently in that range in both the rankings and on the ladder. Sydney, the fifth ranked side (and that seems too high), has very little chance of making the finals after starting the season with six straight losses. Conversely Richmond is still ranked down in twelfth, but has a good chance of making the finals after having won their first five games. So lock in (without actually locking in, as each of these teams can still miss): Adelaide, GWS, Geelong, Port Adelaide, West Coast, Western Bulldogs, and Richmond.
The final spot looks to be a fight between St. Kilda, Melbourne, and Collingwood, with the Magpies being a win back from the other two. North Melbourne, like Sydney, is probably too far away after starting the season 1-5. The betting markets also seem to like Fremantle and Essendon to give the finals a shake, but I don’t. Anyone else – unless something really strange happens … forget it. The Gold Coast Suns though, if they hold form, may at least get some significant improvement out of the season.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 5 2017

Now that we are five rounds into the season I have added back to the Power Rankings the ‘change over the season’ column to show how each club has improved or declined over the season to date.
And the big improvers are:
Essendon – The Bombers were always expected to improve this season as half a dozen of their best players returned from their season-long bans. They haven’t been among the best performed sides so far, but certainly better than the depleted side they fielded last year.
Richmond – The Tigers were awful over the second half of 2016, but they have been consistently solid over the first five matches of 2017 without having had a standout match. In terms of actual wins and losses ‘consistently solid’ has been good enough as the Tigers have won their first five matches over generally average to weak opposition. Because of their poor ending to 2016 they are still ranked as below average, but on 2017 form alone they would easily be a top eight side as they were during 2013 to 2015.
Port Adelaide – After having missed the finals last season Port Adelaide has been up there with Adelaide, GWS, and Geelong as the best sides so far in 2017. The Power opened up by beating Sydney on their home turf, and they destroyed both Fremantle and Carlton. They also put in solid showings against both Adelaide and GWS, indicating that they are on pace for a finals position.
On the other hand, the big decliners have been:
Hawthorn – It’s not as bad as it looked last week, with the Hawks having an excellent win against the West Coast Eagles on the weekend. That aside Hawthorn is clearly nowhere near the side it has been the past six years. I covered Hawthorn’s dramatic fall last week so I won’t say any more on this here.
Sydney – It’s been a big drop for last year’s runners-up and top ranked team – not so much on these rankings which still take into account last season’s form, but on the actual 2017 ladder with the Swans having lost their first five matches. Generally they have been below average in most of their matches so far, which given the heights they scaled last year is a huge drop in performance.
Western Bulldogs – Last year’s premiers the Bulldogs have also been off the pace they set last season. Or at least they are off the pace they set during their phenomenal September run. Before that amazing finals series they were actually only an average side – particularly in the second half of the year – and that seems to be what they have reverted to so far in 2017.
Carlton – The Blues were bad last year. This year they have been even worse, with a thrashing by Port Adelaide and a home loss against Gold Coast their worst performances.
Not on that list is North Melbourne, the other side currently without a win. The Kangaroos have dropped off a bit from last year, but as Rohan Connolly pointed out this week they haven’t been as bad as their ladder position suggests. They’ve had very close losses to Geelong, the Bulldogs, and Fremantle to Perth, and so could have easily had at least one win to date. If you’re looking for the team that is most likely to finish last Brisbane or Carlton seem a safer bet.

Monday, April 17, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 4 2017

There are likely many factors that have contributed to Hawthorn’s huge decline this season, but one factor that captured a lot of attention was their somewhat questionable moves over the off-season. The Hawks traded away their two highest disposal winners, four-time premiership heroes Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis, and threw a lot of money and draft picks at bringing in three players from other clubs: Jaeger O’Meara (Gold Coast), Tom Mitchell (Sydney), and Tyrone Vickery (Richmond). The early returns haven’t been good, both for the new recruits – or for O’Meara and Vickery at least – and for the team as a whole.
Hurling People Now did a great analysis of each of Hawthorn’s moves. They said that the trade for Tom Mitchell was a good one, and in his four matches so far Mitchell has done relatively well. They also said that the Hawks got fair value for Sam Mitchell, who likely only has a year or two of football left.
By their assessment however the Hawks lost out badly by trading Jordan Lewis – who should have a good few years left – for virtually nothing. That is nothing though compared to what they gave up for O’Meara; as HPN pointed out Hawthorn gave up more than an entire draft of picks to eventually land their man. The Hawks had a low expected stock of future games within their list anyway, and these trades dropped them even lower in this regard. If the first round pick they gave to St. Kilda turns out to be a high draft pick, which currently looks very likely, Hawthorn’s 2016 off-season could be seen as a disaster.
The Beitzel Review has a more optimistic view. This article points out that the Hawks haven’t built their list on high draft picks anyway, and instead enhanced it by bringing in several proven players in exchange for late first round picks, which used to be generally overvalued. It also points out that Hawthorn can strengthen its list in the coming years through free agency. All true – but based on what we have seen so far the Hawks look like they are starting from much further back than they, or anyone else, could ever have expected.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 3 2017

We’ve got some colour into these AFL Power Rankings … Usually I don’t care too much about making my tables and charts look colourful after having worked out the main result I want to show. If I’ve got that and then someone suggests adding some colour changes I’m generally thinking something like: ‘WHY? Can you NOT SEE that the RESULT IS CLEAR?’ (Also, I’m colour blind …)
But somebody has been experimenting with the conditional formatting in Excel this week. You’ll see that the ranking point column now has a colour scale, which I think is pretty nifty. What I like is that it gives a better picture of the distance in quality between teams (as determined by the rankings) than the ranking position does. For example, based on its ranking points seventh placed Port Adelaide is much closer in quality to fifth placed West Coast, and even to third placed Sydney, than it is to eighth placed Collingwood. I reckon the AFL Ladder should be coloured this way, particularly after the season’s half way mark. I definitely suggest using a colour scale on the ladder when doing your footy tips.
You’ll also see that the next column has been coloured red and blue to more clearly indicate which teams gained or lost ranking points this week. Though for Gold Coast and Hawthorn a simple shade of red or blue does not really do justice to how much our assessment of them shifted this week. Gold Coast, who gained a whopping ten ranking points, should be a more volcanic red, and Hawthorn should be as blue as the Arctic seas. Unsurprisingly as I’ve only been doing these rankings since 2011 the Hawks have never been ranked anywhere near as low as they are now. And if anything I feel like that their ranking isn’t falling fast enough …

Sunday, April 2, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 2 2017

Last year’s top ranked team Sydney falls a bit further this week after losing again to its Grand Final conquerors the Western Bulldogs. Despite its 0-2 start to this season the Swans are still highly regarded by the rankings, and are still considered a good chance to play in the finals. Matt Cowgill showed over on his column on ESPN that Sydney was – by his ratings – still a 60 per cent chance to make the finals even if it lost this week, and would probably still be considered a better-than-even chance of making it after Round 4 as long as it did not lose its first four matches. That’s a fair bit better than the 2 per cent chance Herald Sun journalist Jon Ralph gave teams starting 0-2 this week. I’d say that Ralph’s figure, which is based on the amount of teams that have recently made the finals after starting 0-2, probably indicates that it’s rare for top teams to start the season with two straight losses.

At the other end of the rankings Essendon remains near the bottom despite winning their first two matches, albeit this week’s win was against the bottom-ranked club Brisbane. No adjustment has been made in the rankings to account for the Bombers having regained some of their best players who were banned from playing last year by the World Anti-Doping Agency. In general because I use a simple formula I don’t make any adjustments for player movements, departures and returns.

I think this works fine in most cases but is probably much less accurate in a significant case like this one. Another consequence is that teams that play Essendon are perhaps penalised more than they should be. For example, Brisbane’s modest 27 point loss this weekend was considered equivalent to a whopping 74 point loss once home ground advantage and Essendon’s relative ‘strength’ – still largely based on its depleted side from last year – was taken into account.

Of course if Essendon performs above its level of last year – which most people expect they will – then it will move up the rankings to its ‘true’ level of competency soon enough. (Similarly the performances of clubs that play against Essendon will naturally adjust in the rankings as well.) Note though the Bombers were playing very badly in late-2015 before those players were banned. They are playing much better so far in 2017, but Essendon has a history over the past few years of starting the season off much better than they finish it. It has done this basically every year since 2012 and repeatedly made my rankings look ‘foolish’ until they drop off. So while I definitely think Essendon is better than the current rankings suggest I’m not prepared to say that the rankings are waaaaaaaaay off just yet.

Monday, March 27, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 1 2017

Welcome back to The Wooden Finger’s AFL Power Rankings for 2017. Before we get to this week’s rankings I said in my final AFL Women’s Power Rankings last week that I would give an update on where Brisbane and Adelaide ended up after the Grand Final. As you’d probably expect Adelaide moved to the top of the rankings after beating the Lions on their home turf to capture the first AFL Women’s flag. The Crows ended up with 14.0 ranking points, while Brisbane remained in third behind Melbourne, and dropped a couple of ranking points to finish on 6.5. That would put the two sides on about even terms in a hypothetical rematch in Queensland, which is almost how their Grand Final ended up.

So to recap, here is how the Power Rankings work – each club accumulates ranking points from its past 22 matches like so:
  • first, take the club’s net margin for the match – e.g. a six-goal win is +36;
  • second, adjust the net margin for home ground advantage – e.g. Perth clubs are considered to have a two-goal disadvantage when playing in Melbourne, so a six-goal win in Melbourne for a Perth club is adjusted to +48; and
  • third, weight the match according to how recent it is, with the most recent match having the highest weight.  
One can then interpret a club’s ranking points as its expected net margin in a match if playing a club of average ability on a neutral ground. For example, according to the rankings the Western Bulldogs would be expected to beat a Victorian club of average ability by about three goals, and Carlton would be expected to lose by about four goals in the same situation.
This week Adelaide, having ascended to the top of the women’s rankings, now also tops the men’s rankings. The Crows – despite their relatively early exit from the finals – were really good last year. Unfortunately for them they had a tough draw and an extremely costly loss in the last round of the regular season, which dropped them from second to fifth heading into the finals. However Adelaide re-affirmed its quality this weekend with a comfortable win over the GWS Giants, who were the pre-season premiership favourites.
You may also note that last year’s premiers the Western Bulldogs are only the sixth-ranked team. The Bulldogs’ form actually wasn’t that great heading into the finals series (though injuries may have played a part), but then of course they caught fire in September and raced away to a long-awaited flag. With that in mind the Dogs beat Collingwood on the weekend by about as much as one should expect they would, even though the Pies were lauded for keeping things close against the reigning premiers. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some comments about the Bulldogs having gone off the boil in the coming weeks, even if they are playing at a similar or higher level than they did for most of last year.

Monday, March 20, 2017

AFL Women’s Power Rankings: Round 7 2017

On the weekend my wife, daughter, sister and I went to the Collingwood versus Adelaide match, in which Adelaide was playing for spot in the AFL Women’s Grand Final next week. Earlier in the season I mentioned that my wife was having a worrying influence upon my daughter’s allegiances, teaching her to say ‘More more Maggies’ which is not the most pleasant thing that my Richmond-supporting ears could hear.

Nevertheless I encouraged the rest of my family to go along to its first AFL Women’s match. The match itself was pretty good – one of the best of the season that I’ve seen. However my poor wife enjoyed it less than I did, spending the entire second quarter in the world’s slowest queue trying to obtain my daughter ice cream (that she subsequently rejected), and the entire final quarter lying on her back feeling faint in the 35-plus degree heat. Which may mean, unfortunate though this experience was, that I have gained even more exclusive domain in taking our daughter to the football in future, at which any more chants of ‘More more Maggies’ are unlikely to be heard.  
Well, on to the rankings … Melbourne finishes the home and away season on top of the rankings after its huge win over Fremantle, despite missing out on the Grand Final next week. Adelaide also gains a few ranking points after its good win, and keeps second spot. Brisbane, who went through the home and away season undefeated, moves down to third. The Lions haven’t been quite as impressive in recent weeks, though perhaps they took their foot off the gas a bit once they knew they would host the Grand Final? In any case Brisbane’s home ground advantage means these rankings peg it as slight favourites to win next week.

As predicted the Bulldogs beat the GWS Giants and put them on the bottom of the ladder, which reflects their position on the rankings. Fremantle also dropped a lot in ranking points after its heavy loss.

With only one match left I’m not going to do a separate women’s rankings post next week, but I will update you on where Grand Final combatants Brisbane and Adelaide finished up in my AFL men’s post. In the meantime, you can also enjoy these summaries of the movements of each team during the first AFL Women’s season.

Monday, March 13, 2017

AFL Women’s Power Rankings: Round 6 2017

Only three clubs can now win the first AFL Women’s premiership: the Brisbane Lions – who have locked up the right to host the Grand Final – and Adelaide and Melbourne, who will fight for second place next week. My Power Rankings now have them all as very close together, after the Demons beat the Crows in Adelaide last week and Brisbane had only a narrow win against the Bulldogs. Based on the rankings each of the three teams’ chances of winning the flag really comes down to their current ladder position, with Brisbane having the best chance – as it will host the Grand Final at home – while Melbourne must rely on an Adelaide loss next week to move into second spot.

At the other end of the rankings GWS will likely finish the season as the lowest ranked team after being well beaten by Collingwood, despite the Dogs being last on the actual ladder. The Dogs though will have a chance to avoid getting the ‘wooden spoon’ when they play the Giants next week. Even with GWS’ home ground advantage the rankings like the Dogs’ chances, given that they have performed much better than their ladder position suggests in recent weeks.

Monday, March 6, 2017

AFL Women’s Power Rankings: Round 5 2017

After holding the number one ranking spot for three weeks the Adelaide Crows are knocked off the top by the Brisbane Lions, who beat them at home by three points over the weekend. However the main consequence of this result is more likely to be to switch which club will host the Grand Final rather than which clubs will get there.

For example, following the Round 5 results the FMI website estimates that Brisbane has a 97 per cent of finishing first or second, and Adelaide has a 93 per cent chance. The Lions’ win on the weekend though has increased their estimated chances of finishing first from 32 per cent to 66 per cent. (The chances based on my rankings would be different, but not by much.)

Carlton and Melbourne are not wholly without a shot, but it looks like we’ll see our first ever AFL Grand Final played outside of Victoria this year.

Monday, February 27, 2017

AFL Women’s Power Rankings: Round 4 2017

Adelaide has moved even further ahead on the rankings following Carlton’s loss to Melbourne on the weekend. The Crows are now rated as one goal per game better than their nearest rival, who is… well, that’s not clear. Carlton, Brisbane, and Melbourne are rated at basically the same level now – in fact Brisbane and Melbourne have exactly the same ranking points. The Lions however, given that they are undefeated and have a great percentage, are the clear favourites to meet the Crows in the Grand Final.
Indeed the only thing holding Brisbane back from second spot is that people ranked them (okay I ranked them, but it was based on the premiership odds at the time) so lowly to begin with. Hurling People Now has called the Lions ‘a well-oiled machine’, noting that they have had a low number of disposals and low number of inside 50s, but have been remarkably efficient when they go forward. Or perhaps they have been a bit lucky?... We'll find out more when they take on the Crows next week.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

AFL Women’s Power Rankings: Round 3 2017

The AFL Women’s competition had its first round of really close results this week. Three matches were decided by less than a goal – including the first ever draw, between Fremantle and GWS. In the other two close matches, the home teams – Adelaide and Brisbane – just squeaked home to remain unbeaten for the year.

According to the rankings though, the home teams kind of ‘lost’. Or rather, given the eight point advantage assigned to home clubs they all should have won by more, particularly as they were all playing what was considered ‘inferior’ opposition. Hence Carlton leapfrogged Brisbane into second, and in Fremantle’s case its draw with the Giants saw it complete its drop from pre-season favourites to the rankings’ bottom spot.

Speaking of Fremantle and the Giants it is a bit of a shame that after just three rounds they already have very little chance of winning the premiership. So too does Collingwood, and to a lesser extent the Western Bulldogs. The AFLW season is only seven rounds long, and after those seven rounds only the top two clubs will be left to play off for the premiership. If instead the top four clubs played finals we wouldn’t have half the competition effectively out of the premiership race already. (Although can we count the Bulldogs out just yet…? Maybe we should wait a couple more weeks…)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

AFL Women’s Power Rankings: Round 2 2017

More volatility in the AFL Women’s Power Rankings this week as the question of how good each of these new teams are remains relatively unsettled.

Adelaide looks to be pretty good, as it jumps to the top of the rankings after a comfortable road win against last week’s leaders the Bulldogs. So do – somewhat surprisingly – the Brisbane Lions. The bookmakers initially had them down as likely to struggle, but they move up into second on the rankings after consecutive away wins against previously fancied opponents.

At the other end pre-season rankings leaders the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle are now considered to be a bit off the pace. And at the very bottom are my wife’s and two-year-old daughter’s AFLW team, Collingwood. My wife has decided that my daughter should adopt her club in AFLW as my club, Richmond, is absent. While I have cautiously accepted this, my daughter’s shouts of ‘More more Maggies’ have set a dangerous precedent. Perhaps a last placed finish for the women Magpies is what I need to dissuade her from becoming permanently entrenched in black and white.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

AFL Women’s Power Rankings: Round 1 2017

There were at least two recurring themes in the opening round of AFL Women’s this weekend. One was that the crowds kept being much bigger than expected. I went along to the opening match between Carlton and Collingwood at Princes (Ikon) Park, and unexpectedly found myself sitting near the top of the stand.

Another theme was probably one that was more for the ‘numbers people’: the similarities in the final scores. Carlton defeated Collingwood 46-11. Adelaide defeated GWS 48-12. And the Western Bulldogs defeated Fremantle 44-12. (Brisbane’s 25-10 defeat of Melbourne was the exception.) So which of these sides had the most impressive win then? Which is the top ranked team?
Carlton and the Western Bulldogs’ wins were fairly similar. The Dogs had the home ground interstate advantage over Freo, which in the rankings gives them a slight penalty, but the Dockers are considered a stronger team than the Blues’ opponent Collingwood. Adelaide’s win is considered not quite as good, given that it had both a home ground advantage, and its opponent GWS is thought to be one of the weaker teams in the competition.
The end result is that the Bulldogs, who had a good win and were believed to be a strong club already, are our top-ranked team after the first week. But as I said last week, with all new clubs and only a few matches to learn about them, expect the rankings to change a lot from week to week.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Introducing the AFL Women’s Power Rankings

My AFL Power Rankings have been a main feature of this blog for the past six years. Next week the AFL starts its women’s competition for its much-anticipated first season. Does this mean I will put together Power Rankings for the women’s league as well?

Indeed I will. But I’m going to give my rankings formula a couple of tweaks for AFL Women’s. To recap: in my system the ranking points for each club is equal to the sum, over its past 22 matches, of its net margin in each match adjusted for both home ground advantage and the strength of the opposition. In addition more recent matches receive higher weightings.

Here are the changes I am going to make.

The number of matches

For the men’s league I chose to use the past 22 matches as that is how many matches a club plays in a home-and-away (regular) season. In the women’s league, with only eight clubs, that would be over three regular seasons worth of matches. So I am going to change the rankings formula for the AFL Women’s competition to cover just each club’s past seven matches.

Note that this, all other things equal, will make the rankings more variable than the men’s competition. A club’s most recent match will count for 25% of its total ranking points, compared with 8.7% in the men’s competition. But with less matches per season it is probably fair that our assessment of the women’s teams should change more quickly.

Home ground advantage

In my men’s AFL Power Rankings, clubs playing another club from interstate are considered to have a one goal or two goals home ground advantage, depending on the distance travelled by the interstate side. These were roughly based on long-term averages of clubs’ performances at home and interstate.

Scores will probably not be as high in the women’s league, and therefore the home ground advantages may not be as high. I say this because the women will play 15-minute quarters, rather than the 20-minute quarters that the men play.

I am going to lower the home ground advantage to four points in cases where I would have assigned one goal HGA in the men’s league – e.g. Melbourne teams playing in Sydney – and lower it to eight points where I would have assigned two goals HGA.    

Starting values

Since no club has played a match in the actual AFL Women’s competition yet, should I start them all on zero? I say no, as the informed view – reflected in bookmakers’ premiership odds – is that they are not equal.

Therefore I am going to allocate each AFL Women’s club a different starting value. These values are roughly based on the relationship in the men’s league between my Power Rankings and the premiership odds. This relationship is then applied to each AFL Women’s club’s premiership odds to derive its starting value for ranking points.

The starting values will also serve as the initial values for determining the strength of opposition – though some of these may quickly change after a couple of matches are played. See the table below for where I am starting each AFL Women’s club off at.

So there you have it: my adjusted Power Rankings system for the AFL Women’s league. Check back every week once the season kicks off to see how the rankings develop. As the teams are largely unknown quantities this should be interesting.