Sunday, August 13, 2017

AFL Power Rankings: Round 21 2017

A couple of weeks ago the GWS Giants were the team that had lost the most ranking points in 2017. But with their big win against the Western Bulldogs this week they pass the title of ‘club that has taken the biggest step backwards in 2017’ to the Dogs, their 2016 preliminary final conquerors. Of course when you are high up to begin with you have further to fall. The Bulldogs are now ranked thirteenth (by a close margin) – which is a fair drop for a reigning premier – though they were never ranked higher than fifth here in 2017, even at the start of the season.

I’m going to continue on with my ‘end-of-season’ summary for each side: this week it’s Geelong to North Melbourne. As was the case last week you can see their ranking points for each round in the graph below.

Geelong Cats: The Cats were above average yet again in 2017. Their peak came in Round 5 a week after slaughtering Hawthorn, but losses to Collingwood, the Gold Coast Suns (!), and Essendon brought them down from a ‘four goals better than average’ side to about ‘two goals better than average’. That’s about where they have been ever since, and in an even season that’s generally been good enough to have them ranked third or fourth for most of 2017.

Gold Coast Suns: As of this week the Gold Coast Suns have become the first side other than the Brisbane Lions to be ranked last in 2017, after the Lions themselves thrashed the Suns in the second QClash of the season. They started off OK … after that aforementioned win against Geelong in Round 7 they were ranked as respectably below average. But it’s all gone horribly wrong from about Round 13 onwards, and based on form since then they have comfortably overtaken their fellow Queenslanders as the competition’s worst performed side. When even your departing coach regrets having come to your club in the first place you know you have some issues.

GWS GIANTS: As I covered a few weeks ago the Giants took a huge stride backwards this season, from being great to being merely good. I suggested then that injuries and suspensions (combined with some weaker ‘replacement players’) may have played a part. Big wins against the Bulldogs and Melbourne in the past couple of weeks have restored some of the Giants’ standing, so it may be that they are on their way to being a dangerous side in the finals again.

Hawthorn: The Hawks have had one of the odder seasons in 2017. In the first seven weeks they were awful, getting destroyed by Geelong, Gold Coast, and St. Kilda within the space of four weeks. But from Round 14 to Round 18 they were fantastic: including beating Adelaide on their home turf, having a draw with GWS, and narrowly losing their return bout with Geelong. Overall then they rate about average for the year, but – like Sydney – it’s really been a season of two very different halves for the Hawks.

Melbourne: The Demons have had easily their best season since these rankings began, and have been rated as above average since they also beat Adelaide on their home turf back in Round 8. Melbourne’s improvement this year could be seen as basically the next step in the steady progression of a young side. Actually though, it’s likely primarily due to the massive improvement of Clayton Oliver, and bringing in good veterans Michael Hibberd and Jordan Lewis. We’ll see if their other young players aside from Oliver have enough improvement left in them for Melbourne to take another step forward.

North Melbourne: The Roos had the semblance of still being an average side up to about Round 10, with only some close losses keeping them from being mid-range on the actual ladder. But after that they dropped away badly, due both to heavy losses and defeats to poor sides. They haven’t quite been as bad overall during that time as Fremantle and Gold Coast – both of whom they lost to – but the Kangas could be starting from a fair way back in 2018.

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