Changing of the Guard

So, that’s the winter sports all wrapped up for the year – at least in theory.

We saw Richmond triumphant in a game that saw them break down Adelaide’s vaunted attack while keeping up their own end. In particular, Dustin Martin had a fine game to sweep the treble of the Norm Smith, although like many I thought Bachar Houli might been a bit stiff missing out on that as he and Alex Rance did much to blunt the Crows’ path to goal. It was quite telling that when Martin turned up to the post conference he bore only the premiership medallion. Too much bling is gauche.

(As for the conspiracy theory that somehow Adelaide were stiffed by… something to do with umpiring or the higher gravity in Victoria or what, maybe if they hadn’t lost by eight goals, there might be grounds to establish an argument.)

Of course after Footy Christmas came Footy Boxing Day, with the Melbourne Storm just basically crushing the North Qld Cowboys, as seemed to be expected. A bit dull to watch but a nice send off for Cronk, Cam Smith and Slater. Also completing the Swan Street double after the Tigers’ incredible triumph sent that part of Melbourne into raptures – and without any overturned, burned out cars! Good work!

As far as GRAFT goes, I’ve decided to keep myself busy over summer by keeping track of the A-League which kicks off this weekend. The GRAFT system that I use for AFL doesn’t work so well for association football so I’ll be running off everyone’s favourite ranking algorithm as devised by Arpad Elo. I’m unlikely to bring too many enhancements beyond the off-the-shelf formula, although I do want to work out a method to track attacking/defensive alignment along the way. As such, the ratings for this season will be a work in progress as I tune things along the way. So it’ll be in alpha phase for this season.

I also have a bit of homework to do over summer as far as the AFL ratings go, mostly where it comes to projections and that. As I tweeted a while ago, the random algorithm I use for the Monte Carlo sims needs to reflect actual scoring distributions more closely so that’s going on the to-do list.

2017 Grand Final Preview and beyond

According to the main GRAFT ratings, we have Richmond rated as 3 points better than Adelaide, but that is based on a home ground advantage since Richmond are playing at their home ground against the interstate team. If you otherwise consider grand finals to be neutral in general, then you would remove the standard 12 point HGA factor, then it’s Adelaide by 9. That seems more or less right to me – the Crows have objectively been the best side for most of the season (although with a few strange missteps along the way), but the Tigers have also been consistent through the season with some excellent performances of late.

Going by the Season Ratings based on the home-and-away record and not accounting for finals results, there’s a bit more of a gap in perceived quality as it shows Adelaide at 1186 and Richmond at 995, holding Adelaide as the better side by 7 points (or 19 without HGA).

From the gut feeling point of view I would probably put Adelaide ahead as well. They have been one of the more attacking oriented sides of recent seasons, so shutting down those multiple avenues at goal is something Richmond will need to do – and they’re quite capable of that. So what I’m hoping for is basically a close game all the way through – fans of either particular team would probably like their team to work up a decisive advantage early on so they can soak up the rest of the game, but that’s not much fun for the rest of us.

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times on the toots, up to this point Richmond and Adelaide had the two longest current grand final droughts in the league, Richmond not been in a grand final since 1982 (capping off their greatest era) and Adelaide since completing their successful back-to-back campaign in 1998. Prior to this time last year, it was the Western Bulldogs who had that dubious honour which they dispelled in style. After Saturday, though, the honour will pass jointly to North Melbourne and Carlton, who last competed in 1999 – which doesn’t seem that long ago, actually. Maybe I’m getting old…

In that respect, that 16 clubs have managed to play off in the last 20 years has been fairly remarkable, although of course we’ve also seen dynasties from the Brisbane Lions, Geelong and Hawthorn in that time. Only the two newest expansion clubs haven’t made it to the last game of the season, and of course GWS have gotten pretty close the last couple of years so they should be primed to do so next year.

As for premiership droughts, well, Melbourne and St Kilda have still waiting since the 1960s even though they have both played a number of grand finals. Richmond’s wait of 37 years isn’t quite up there but given the vast number of fans, the frustration is palpable, as will the relief if the Tiges actually come through on Saturday. To do that, though, they will have to overcome an Adelaide side that has also suffered its ups-and-downs, such has other clubs nicking off with its best players and tragedies such the passing of Phil Walsh.

It’s going to be an interesting contest between two proud and well-supported clubs who, it has to be said, have underachieved through the years.

Oh, and I prepared a bingo card, of course.