The stigma surrounding Ben Brown is perplexing.
When is a home not a home? When you’re playing in the AFL and your home ground has been put out to pasture, that’s when.
This is particularly noticeable in the remaining matches this season, when teams’ “home” and “away” games are one thing on paper, but stack up quite differently in reality in ways that could have an enormous impact on ladder positions after 22 rounds.
Competition frontrunners Geelong, for example, are listed as having three games away, but will play two of those at the MCG as practice runs for the finals, and only face one trip longer than up the freeway, when they play Sydney at Homebush in round 20.
On the other side of the coin only two of their three “home” games are on their real home ground, Skilled Stadium.
Collingwood aren’t too badly off, either, with their next three games at the MCG, their virtual home ground, including this week’s against Essendon, for which they are the “away” team.
The Magpies do face two interstate trips, to Adelaide and Perth, but their opponents, Port Adelaide and Fremantle, won’t hold as many fears as they would have done in some other years.
Richmond, the on-paper roughies for the eight, have their last three games at the MCG, with the “away” tag alongside their name in round 22 against Melbourne. With a “home” game against Brisbane at Telstra Dome this week, and an “away” one at the same venue against Geelong to follow, the Tigers are outside Melbourne only once, against Adelaide in round 19.
In most other years the Demons’ draw would have the other clubs howling from the rafters. Melbourne have an incredible five out of the last six at the G, where they are “away” to Essendon next week. Only a trip to Adelaide to play Port in round 21 interrupts the sequence.
The Western Bulldogs can’t be too keen about being “at home” to Sydney in Canberra next week, either, while the boot is on the other foot for Brisbane when they’re “away” to North Melbourne on the Gold Coast the day before.
Of course there’s no way of preventing such anomalies with the way grounds are used and the financial factors involved.
But how will it all pan out this season?
Five teams could theoretically win five matches each – Geelong, Richmond (surprising, but possible), St Kilda (I know, saying the Saints can win five out of six is crazy, but have a good look), Sydney (playing the Doggies at Manuka is a big help) and the Western Bulldogs, whose draw is looking pretty flash apart from the trip to Canberra.
I’m tipping the final points could look like this:
Geelong (5 wins) 80 points
Western Bulldogs (5) 74
Hawthorn (4) 68
Sydney (5) 62
St Kilda (5) 56
Collingwood (4) 52
Richmond (5) 50
North Melbourne (3) 46
Brisbane (2) 44
Essendon (4) 40
Adelaide (1) 36
Carlton (1) 32
Port Adelaide (2) 28
Fremantle (1) 16
Melbourne (1) 12
West Coast (0) 8
Under that scenario, with Richmond and, all too late, Essendon, the big improvers, and Brisbane taking the drop from the present eight, neither the final eight nor the top four would need to be decided on percentages.
The big crunch game is shaping up to be the Tigers v the Hawks in round 20. At this stage I think Richmond can win it because they’ll be more desperate.
If the Hawks get up, Richmond could have to hope for a better percentage. At present they’re one percentage point in front.