Midseason Report – 2019

Since we’re at the turning point, with the bye rounds to come, I thought it a good opportunity to whip up a “quick” post on the season as well as GRAFT’s tracking thereof. There’s not much editing in this and it’s mostly subjective opinion though I’ve sandwiched it with some numbers which I would like think do have some rigour behind them.

The first five rounds were fairly tricky to pick, with GRAFT’s hit rate being just 53%, barely better than coin-toss odds. Then the next 5-6 rounds seem to suggest the new order had asserted itself, with the Rd 11 total now being 68/99, or pretty close to 68%.

I think it’s worth pointing out that some seasons are just more unpredictable than others, particularly when the intrinsic order is being shuffled, but to me it seems like a pretty dramatic shift from chaos to relative order.

Also true that the average score has reduced again, seemingly making a mockery of all the AFL’s rule changes – and maybe they should stop messing around with it, making the umpire’s (part-time) job even harder. Besides, the last time we had this hang-wringing concern about overly defensive football with all the “flooding” in the mid-00s, the game seemed to sort itself out in the form of Geelong, Hawthorn and Collingwood.

Besides, we’re getting a lot more close games – 17 decided by a kick or less so far – and that is an upside. I “officially” consider a blowout to be any game where the margin is 60 points or over, up until the three we saw in Rd 11, there were only six up this point.

This suggests that this is as even a competition as 2018s, although, seemingly correlated with the improved predictability, a pecking order seems to have finally formed. So anyway, a quick run through each club, in order of current ladder position.

Geelong seemingly didn’t get the results they worked for last year, but in 2019 they are finally delivering on that promise, the only blemish being that loss to the Giants at home. So, they’re two games clear of the pack, and what looks like a clear run home – on my numbers Port at Adelaide in Rd 14 looks like their biggest challenge, and they’re still good favourites. I think they might drop 1 or 2 whoopsies but are looking very good for First.

The Giants of Greater Western Sydney are at the head of the chasing pack, and have generally looked solid as you’d expect, after what was possibly a disappointing 2018. However, they had their bad moments, such as the thrashing by West Coast, or bizarrely, getting shut out by the Hawks for most of a half, but still look pretty settled for another top four finish and an enticing target for bandwagoners from the east of Strathfield.

Collingwood had a wobbly 1-2 start, but have looked pretty solid since. On the other hand, they lost both their MCG games against the WA sides, doing so against Fremantle in inexplicable fashion just this weekend. Definite Top 4 prospects with the GRAFT MC getting them in on 69% of the sims (nice) but of course could do a complete bunk before the season is done.

West Coast had a curious start to the start of the season but in the last month have settled in pretty nicely, actually looking like the reigning premiers. I think maybe the Perth Stadium’s more traditional shape compared to Subi, which I usually thought of as a surfboard (and not dissimilar to Kardinia Park), while giving up that idiosyncrasy also means they don’t have to alter their gameplan too much if they’re playing at wider grounds. It might be only worth a goal here and there but every little counts, perhaps.

The Brisbane Lions definitely count as most improved, coming in at 7-4 so already matching their best result from the past five seasons and with those wins on the board, a pretty good chance of making the finals for the first time in a decade. In my opinion GRAFT still underrates them at net -3.4, and maybe if they do make it into September they might get overwhelmed, but it’s one of the good news stories of the season, particularly as they are finally realising the attacking potential they’ve hinted at over the last couple of seasons.

Richmond had an early setback losing Rance which meant they had to retool to a point, not helped by further injuries, but on the upside, SYDNEY STACK. They still have a few tricky games ahead, most particularly Geelong on Friday, but I also think they still have a bit of upside to them.

Port Adelaide are having another of those seasons of theirs where they look like world-beaters one week and ordinary the next. I think they’re on line to make the finals anyway but the slightest setback could see them fall short. Their run home doesn’t look awful for them, but as I find with the 50/50 sides, they have to take each of those at a time.

Adelaide are a similar proposition to their cross-town rivals, they have six down and so likely need another six to play finals. Their next four games are GWS, Richmond, Geelong and Port, 2-2 would be an acceptable return frankly as their next four look more inviting.

Fremantle have improved somewhat this season, but that was coming from a pretty low bar where it just seemed they gave up last year. Now sitting just outside the eight, you could say they’re just lurking, in case one of the clubs ahead of them goes into a slump. The past weekend’s win against the Pies definitely boosted their chances but from hereonin they don’t have the easiest draw.

Essendon on 5-6 look like a decent team that just don’t seem able to capable of building momentum; it’s hard to think of reasons aside from their continual run of fragile forwards. Their draw is not particularly bad but of course there’s the little matter of a game against the similarly-rated Hawthorn coming up after their bye.

Hawthorn feel like a team in transition, with a mix of premiership veterans, high priced transfers, and kids with potential; enough has been made of Tom Mitchell’s absence as well as a few other injuries. They’ve been generally competitive in all their games (except maybe against Richmond) but have let slip a few games, perhaps showing they’ve lost a bit of that edge. Need a bit of luck to make finals.

St Kilda made a bright start for a young team, before reality apparently reasserted itself. They have already surpassed last year’s tally of four wins, so they have definitely improved. Given who is ahead of them, both on the ladder and on the fixture, and given who they have on their side, finals looks pretty remote. My sims have given them a median of 9 wins, and looking everything, that seems about right.

North Melbourne‘s recent decision to end Brad Scott’s services after a fairly mediocre start to the season was probably the correct one, given the length of his tenure, but the last two wins – one with Scott, one with Shaw, does open up the possibility of a twist in this tale, as remote as it looks right now. I get the feeling it’ll be a “trying out things, seeing what happens” approach while the upstairs office starts putting their feelers out for the next coach.

I’m not really sure what’s going on with the Western Bulldogs – it’s like their team isn’t terrible but they also don’t seem to have enough cans in the cupboard to really impress. Beveridge bought a lot of time with the 2016 flag but, with a difficult run home, it may get to the point where that gratitude can only count for so much.

What happened to Sydney, man? It is without exaggeration that this is shaping up as Swans’ worst season since the mid-90s (I’m not saying the early 90s, that team was awful) but since then, we’ve all sort of gotten used to this idea of the perennial Bloods turning up every September. To be fair they’ve not gotten flogged at any point (why they’re not at early 90s levels) but it’s still weird to see them like this, sort of petering out like the last season of some show about dragons.

Oh Melbourne. For some reason I had you guys all hyped up as flag favourites at the start of the year because I forgot you were Melbourne. Well, thanks for the reminder.

Gold Coast had three tight wins at the start of the season so we thought they might actually be… not terrible this year. But they’re still terrible, maybe not as terrible as last year, but nevertheless terrible enough that people are still making knife sharpening sounds with ominous mutterings about Tasmania. Brisbane’s improvement has been good enough to make people think that footy in Queensland isn’t completely cooked but also to think, well, the Suns got given all the breaks setting up, and look what it’s come to.

And as for Carlton, to be honest they hadn’t improved a great deal, now they’ve sent Bolton on his way, I expect they’ll try and buy out another coach. I expect that the scuttlebutt about Lyon this morning is just people having fun on Twitter, but it is also completely consistent with the history of CFC Est 1864. Maybe it’s Carlton that should get the shunt to Tasmania, at least they have a few fans there.

When I’m churning out the numbers, I’m more interested in the various possibilities, and watch with fascination as each weeks results narrow them down, than I am in trying to nail one possibility in the past. So, with my most recent sims, it looks like the current eight will still be there come the end of the home-and-away, and that seems reasonable to me.

But it also wouldn’t surprise me if there was a swap or two in all that. Of the current outsiders, Fremantle (41%) on 6 wins, and Essendon (35%) and Hawthorn (31%) on 5 with 100+ percentage as the most likely to swap in, which would be at the expense of Brisbane or the two SA teams. Richmond still have a little work to do before I ink them in (Top 8 is 88%) but I expect that they will do so.

St Kilda is also on 5 wins but with a less than optimal percentage of 85% and GRAFT doesn’t like them with a net rating of -20.6, so they have to get their bootstraps on, and as I suggested, I’m a bit sceptical they can actually do that. They are actually behind North and Sydney as well.

As for the number of wins (strictly points, as there may be a draw or two to come given the amount of tight finishes), the post Round 11 sims are panning out thusly:

Teams finishing on 12 wins made the Top 8 80% of the time.

For the top four and the double chance, 14 wins will get teams there 55% of the time and 15 wins 95%.

As usual around this time of the year I will try and set up the page with the full projection breakdowns, so that might be how I’m spending part of the long weekend.