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.