Meta-predictions for AFL in 2017

Gordon Smith Roar Rookie

By , Gordon Smith is a Roar Rookie

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    As part of my own scoring system, I’ve been tallying every possible prediction I can find for the upcoming AFL season in two categories: player of the year and final finishing order.

    In all, I found 24 sources for ladder orders (there were tons more available – we all like people to know what we think, but count how many own up to it at the end of September). The ones that came from a magazine’s editorial staff I weighted more heavily, as more than one person’s opinion was involved.

    My scoring method was simple: one point for first, down to 18 for the wooden spoon, so low scores are better than high.

    The stratification was almost unanimous, except for an occasional fan-made order: the top three, second three, and third three were virtually always the same teams in some order. The bottom team was close to unanimous, and the trio above them was fairly regular as well.

    There was some mixture from slots ten through 17, depending on how voters thought the Dons would pull together, and how Freo and Gold Coast would be able to recover from injury-plagued seasons a year ago.

    Top three
    Forecast to be Greater Western Sydney (27 points), Western Bulldogs (54 points), and Sydney (56 points).

    The Giants were first on more than half the ballots this season – I’ve analysed all this in a previous piece and won’t repeat it here, but suffice it to say that I wholeheartedly agree.

    The consensus has a Swan-Bulldog battle for second. Any chance the powers-that-be would move the grand final to the Olympic Stadium were a Giants-Swans grand final to unfold? Too many logistics involved, but wouldn’t that cause an uproar!

    Second three
    Expected to be Adelaide (95 points), Geelong (109), and West Coast (118).

    All three teams have about equal support for fourth (and occasionally third), but the difference in totals indicates the folks who see that particular team dropping significantly. The Eagles, for example, were left out of finals altogether by a couple of tipsters, which while possible isn’t the way I’d bet (for the record, those are my four through six as well).

    Third three
    The teams fighting for those last two finals spots, and judging by the consensus, few believe in the rule of ‘at least two teams move into/out of finals each year’, because Hawthorn is a strong seventh (139 points) with St Kilda (172) and Melbourne (188) well behind (I have Saints, Demons, and Hawks as seven through nine).

    The Kangaroos are the obvious team to drop out, given their finish last year and immediate house cleaning, but the only other team chosen to drop out of the eight even occasionally was the Hawks.

    We tend to resist change as a species. Nobody saw Fremantle in advance dropping to 16th, of course, but even as they fell to three, four, five losses, it was still difficult to imagine them not making finals. Now, very few people can bring themselves to predict them returning to finals this season.

    The same is true for all teams – except for the Kangaroos and Bombers, who made wholesale changes from 2016 to 2017, no team is predicted to move more than about three places. History suggests otherwise.

    jarryd-roughead-hawthorn-hawks-afl-2017-tall

    The bottom nine was a bit of a jumble, but the total scores bear out the typical predictions:

    10. Collingwood (232 points) – and yet only two of 24 ladders had the Pies in finals
    11. Port Adelaide (234) – had the most consistent placements, usually in ninth to 12th
    12. Fremantle (244) – wild swings from last year’s 16th up to a single fifth place vote
    13. Essendon (245) – all over the place, except for top three and last
    14. Richmond (259) – everybody is essentially predicting a coaching change in Tigerland
    15. North Melbourne (281) – another wild one: the Roos got finals votes and spoon votes
    16. Gold Coast (292) – without injuries, many placed the Suns up around 11th or 12th
    17. Carlton (320) – very few have confidence in the youth of the Blues
    18. Brisbane (356) – even my twin eleven-year-old daughters looked at my spreadsheet and said, “Wow, poor Brisbane!” Yeah, but there’s nowhere to go but up. If Chris Fagan can keep them off the bottom rung, he will have done his job this year.

    Player of the year predictions

    While The Roar and afl.com.au both put out a Top 50, there are easily a dozen top tens out there to compare.

    This time, the higher score is better in my tally, because I inverted the lists and weighted according to the same standards as the ladder forecasts.

    Patrick Dangerfield starts the year in the top spot, as nobody seems to want to dethrone the current king until they see evidence on the field (I have him first as well). The Geelong superstar sits at 33 points, easily clear of all competition to start the season.

    Second place is Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe, coming off an injury-shortened season and showing positive signs in the JLT of returning to champion’s form.

    The gap between second and first represents the uncertainty that Fyfe will be the freak of nature he was before his injury – watching Gary Ablett struggle on the Gold Coast, or remembering Chris Judd’s injury about ten years ago, can do that to a viewer.

    Fyfe-Fremantle-AFL

    In third there’s a tie between a trio of players: two Swans, Lance Franklin and Josh P Kennedy, and a surprising Magpie, Scott Pendlebury.

    Pendlebury’s consistency and fantasy value add up to 28 points, as do Kennedy’s growing prowess and Franklin’s ability to dominate a game completely when called upon.

    Following the top five, at 27 points, comes another trio of studs: Bulldogs superstar-on-the-rise and Chris Hemsworth’s idol, Marcus Bontempelli, Sydney midfielder Luke Parker, and the Geelong star who eased straight into a two-man wrecking crew without blinking, Joel Selwood.

    Many felt guilty for placing ‘The Bont’ so high after just 63 games, but implied they’d feel stupider leaving him out.

    As you go down the list, there are nine names in the next tier that you could easily see making their own case for a Brownlow given the right turn of events this year: Adelaide’s Rory Sloane (25 points), the ‘too old’ Ablett and the ‘too young’ Tom Lynch (23 points each) at Gold Coast, the ‘Bearded Samson’ Max Gawn at Melbourne (23 points), Robbie Gray (22 points) at Port Adelaide, the front/back duo at Richmond of Dustin Martin and Alex Rance (25 and 22 points), the under-appreciated Swan Dan Hannebury (24 points), and even the ‘potential savior’ of the Eagles, Sam Mitchell, at 22 points.

    Who will win this year’s Brownlow Medal? Will it be one of those 17 men, or someone we haven’t thought about yet? Will the premiership indeed travel to Sydney this spring? We all have opinions, but the joy is in the discovery.

    Whatever your rooting interest, whichever team makes your blood boil, make a point to appreciate the talent of some of the world’s greatest athletes in the game that shows off talent more than any other.

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