Tuesday, April 19, 2022

AFL Rankings: Round 5 2022

How far ahead are Melbourne?

Reigning premiers Melbourne are the only undefeated team five weeks into the season, and they haven’t looked close to losing a match so far. Compared to their apparent closest competitor the Brisbane Lions, the Demons are considered three goals better on my rankings, and according to betting markets have double the probability of winning the flag.

Melbourne has compiled easily the most ranking points over the first five rounds of this season (see table below). This includes comfortable wins over the Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide, GWS, and Essendon, who all finished in the top eight last year. The main note of caution here is that none of those teams currently sit inside the top eight this year, with three of them placed in the bottom five with two wins between them. Melbourne have been so dominant however that even if you shaved a couple of goals off their results they would still be considered the highest-performed team in 2022 so far.

As has been the case through Melbourne’s recent rise to becoming the preeminent team in the league, the Demons’ performances have been fuelled by a star-studded midfield being backed by a suffocating defence. The Demons have allowed only 60 points per game so far in 2022 from an average of 50 opposition inside 50s, so their opponents are scoring only 1.2 points per forward 50 entry – well below the league average of 1.6 points. Melbourne also ranks first in intercept differential (see table below), and second in contested possession differential, which are both good signs in being able to sustain another run at the flag.

A final note of caution though is that probably the last team to be this far ahead of the opposition was another team coming off a drought-breaking premiership: Richmond in the early rounds of 2018. The Tigers slowed down in the second half of that season, and did not end up winning the premiership – although they obviously more than made up for it with back-to-back flags in 2019 and 2020. Still, it is a reminder both that there is a long way to go in the season before the finals, and that the best team does not always win when you get there.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

AFL Rankings: Round 4 2022

Port Adelaide are in trouble but it is not quite as dire as it looks

Port Adelaide, having made the preliminary final the past two seasons, have zero wins and four losses, including a brutal loss after the siren to their arch-rival the Adelaide Crows (see video below, source: AFL on YouTube). This makes them the only winless team after four rounds, with some pressure mounting on long-time coach Ken Hinkley’s position.

Port have had an average point differential of -28 over the first four rounds, being comfortably beaten at home by Hawthorn and Melbourne. However, their average scoring shot differential is just -1, and they actually have positive inside 50, possession, and ‘possession chain’ differentials.

Port’s problems have in significant part come from not being able to efficiently convert forward 50 entries into points, both in terms of getting scoring shots once inside 50 and inaccuracy in their shots on goal. Their 3 points per scoring shot is the worst in the competition, well below the league average of 3.7 points.

They have also played Brisbane and Melbourne, two of the strongest teams in the league. Certainly they still would have expected to be 2-2 at this stage, and are paying the price for ‘poor’ losses to Hawthorn and Adelaide. However, in both matches their ‘expected score’ was much better than the final result. This suggests that their fall this season so far hasn’t been quite as drastic as the wins and losses columns currently indicate.