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Randomly predicting the 2016 AFL Ladder

Jeremy Cameron is going to have a breakout year. (AAP image/Julian Smith)
Roar Guru
9th March, 2016
11
3237 Reads

As at the start of every season, there are people who look carefully at the results of the pre-season, the last couple of seasons, scoring and defence trends, possession stats and team lists and use these to try and accurately predict just what the standings will be at the end of the season. (Although the similarities between last year’s ladder and this year’s predicted ladders are often remarkable.)

I think that’s the boring way of doing things. I think a far more interesting way of doing this would be to take away the whole predicting element and try and justify the ladder I get when I put the teams into a randomiser. The results:

18. Melbourne Demons
As much as I’m a fan of Paul Roos and his attempts to bring Melbourne into the light, I don’t think we have seen as much improvement from the Demons as we should have in the last couple of years. Their scoring remains a worry and losing a key defender just last year was a bad sign too.

While Jesse Hogan, the best Hogan not named Paul, remains a gun, a few early losses will make it hard for the Demons to finish anywhere significant. That being said, a No.1 pick will give new coach Simon Goodwin a clean break from Roos and the opportunity to build his own Melbourne legacy next year.

17. Hawthorn Hawks
No team can stay at the top of the pile forever, and so it must be with Hawthorn. With the last three premierships (which for some reason people insist on calling a “three-peat” instead of a “hat-trick”) in the trophy cabinet, the Hawks might be expected to compete for this year’s flag as well.

Not so, say I (through the advice of a web randomiser) and I predict that the Hawks will have to most dramatic downturn in form since Napoleon decided a Russian winter was the most auspicious time for a visit with his Grande Armée.

Their best players are also their oldest and they’ve lost a key defender to retirement. Perhaps most crucially they’ve lost yet another key member of their coaching staff, the Hawks being a prime target for coaching raiders. No team can resist such pressures forever and this will be the year that all that catches up to them.

16. Brisbane Lions
Speaking of dramatic downturns in form, the Lions’ last twelve years have been some of the worst in any team’s football history. Will this be the year that they start to return to competing for finals? Apparently not, says the randomiser.

Their lack of a key forward is at least partly reduced this year, but experience is the missing ingredient. They have a good midfield, which should make them competitive and win them a few games. But without a more even spread of experience in the forward and defence posts, Brisbane will remain a struggling team.

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15. Port Adelaide Power
Port Adelaide was one of the disappointing teams of last year. This year will involve another disappointing season from the Power from Port.

Their only major off-season change was picking up Charlie Dixon from the Suns, but that may make their forward line too tall since they already had a pretty decent pair of key forwards with Westhoff and Schulz.

The loss of Patrick Ryder and Angus Monfries to suspension for the year significantly affects their two strongest areas: the midfield and forward line.

14. Richmond Tigers
Richmond, on paper, has one of the stronger teams in the league. A midfield that stands toe-to-toe with all others, a forward line led by a two-time Coleman Medallist and a defence that recently has been one of the top three or four in the competition.

However, I see this as something that is about to change if for no other reason than that Alex Rance will finally be penalised as often as he should be (in my totally perfect and not-at-all-amateur opinion) leading to the Tigers conceding at least five extra goals a game. This will cause the Tigers to fall back into their traditional spot outside the eight.

13. Collingwood Magpies
Ah, Collingwood, you old That One Team, you. The Collingwood Yankees have what seems to be a core of talent that could be the basis for a premiership run.

Their midfield, built around veterans Scott Pendlebury and Sane Swan with new recruits James Aish and Adam Treloar, can stand up to anyone in the competition, they have a solid if unspectacular defence/forward depending on where Ben Reid plays and a missing something in forward/defence where he doesn’t.

In another year or two the Collingwood Cowboys will be in the top four again, but that will require them to take the pressure off Travis Cloke up front and make the bottom of their 22 better than they are now.

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12. Gold Coast Suns
The Suns of the Gold Coast sky are yet to reach their potential and this won’t be the year when they do. While their squad boasts some really good players, including G.O.A.T. Gary “of Nazareth” Ablett, they still struggle in defence and to compete when up against a strong midfield. Their forward has some potential, but now that they’ve lost Charlie Dixon to Port Adelaide they’re going to rely on Tom Lynch, and potentially Our Lord And Saviour as a small forward, even more to score competitively. I do think that the Suns will have some upset wins over top eight sides, but finals will elude them for another year.

11. Sydney Swans
Yeah, I have a bad feeling that this one might come true. The Swans didn’t really click with any kind of consistency last year and they’ve only really lost talent without any meaningful pick-ups.

Mike Pyke, Nick Malceski, Lewis Jetta and Craig Bird are all gone from the heights of the 2014 minor premiership and the pick-ups? Not really worth much, at least on paper.

The midfield will fight hard, the defence is solid if nothing else, they have two great key forwards and some really promising young players. But the team doesn’t really have any speed and will struggle to win enough games to make the finals.

10. Western Bulldogs
The Bulldogs were a popular second favourite team last year. They made it to the finals, surprising nearly everyone, and ran ragged over many slower opponents. Now the Warner Brothers football club will have to try and follow up that exciting first act with some more success.

Their midfield will only be strengthened by the return of Tom Libertore and with another year into Tom Boyd, he might start living up to the hype (and the paycheck) that West Bengal have put on him.

However, second-year blues (not that kind) are something that apparently exist and it seems like this could be the reason that World Bowling will disappoint this season.

9. Adelaide Crows
(R)Adelaide may just be the unluckiest club this season. Not just because they’re going to finish in ninth and emulate Richmond, but because it’s probably going to be almost entirely due to them losing their best player to free trade last year.

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Now that Patrick Dangerfield has done what everyone assumed he would, coupled with the fact that they have a new coach due to the tragic death of Phil Walsh, the Crows will have to adjust much of their game plan and structures in the forward half of the ground.

They have a great set of key position players, both forward and back, and some of the best small players in the league. This will keep them competitive for much of the year, but they’ll fall just a game or two short from the eight this year.

8. West Coast Eagles
Oh West Coast. Back in those heady days of 05-06, I never imagined cheering for you on grand final day. We had such a good rivalry, culminating in two of the most entertaining and tense matches in history.

When it came time for you to take your shot at the Hawks last year though, you missed just as hard as the Swans did. Perhaps caused by this, you will have a season pretty similar to the Swans of last year, leading to a disappointing eighth-place finish.

However, I also predict that this will be due to a late-season Richmond 2014 run leading to the Eagles winning at least one final.

7. Fremantle Dockers
The Dockers have had a good few years, making a grand final and winning a minor premiership and yet, despite this success, the premiership remains the only ship to never dock at Fremantle.

Their midfield is really good, led by the player many (mistakenly) call the best in the League, and their tight defence is their pride and joy, bread and butter, Doctor and companion, etc. and etc.

However, their forward line remains reliant on another-year-older Matthew Pavlich. Scoring remains their Achilles’ heel and unless there is a remarkable change in game plan the Dockers will have trouble winning against top teams.

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6. North Melbourne Kangaroos
After back-to-back preliminary finals, the Kangaroos seem to be a good, competitive team that just can’t quite break through into a grand final. Since their trade period was not particularly active, it seems unlikely that North Melbourne will be able to improve to the extent that they’ll need to make it to the GF.

With Harvey, Petrie, Waite and many of their best players approaching the end of their careers they’re going to be going all out to try and get that retirement flag.

This will mean that once again North Melbourne will make the eight and go close to making the preliminary final again, but they won’t quite have the chops to get over that hurdle.

5. St Kilda Saints
St Kilda have worked hard over the last few years and now their hard work will pay off to a not-insignificant degree. With Josh Bruce and Paddy McCartin as the key forwards, Nick Reiwoldt can now be a roving player like Mark Blicavs of Geelong and give the Saints a level of flexibility in attack that most other clubs can’t touch.

This flexibility will enable them to somewhat cover their main weakness: their lack of height in defence. This weakness has been underlined by the loss of Jake Carlisle who would have been their No.1 defender this year. As it stands, that loss will be the reason that the cleverly-nicknamed St Kilda Saints will miss the top four this year.

4. Essendon Bombers
Beware the cornered beast. Essendon have had a nightmare three years, through all fault of their own, but they have my sympathy.

They’ve lost much of their first-choice team but have managed to pick up several big names as replacements including two former premiership players. They’ve also added in Craig Bird from Sydney, another premiership player, through trades. The new coach, John Worsfold, won two premierships as a player and another as a coach.

What this means is that they will have a team filled with players who know how to win, coached by someone who knows how to win and that will be a big factor in the Bombers’ success this year.

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3. Carlton Blues
Hell hath no fury like a power club scorned. Carlton have been a laughing stock for most of this century, but that is all about to change. They have the No.1 draft pick holding down a spot in defence, bringing the total number of top picks in their team up to three. You can’t ignore that such talent will help a team become successful.

With Brendan Bolton newly installed from Hawthorn, the Blues have the opportunity to make a big move up the ladder and with last year’s No.1 draft pick as their key defender, they’ll do just that.

2. Geelong Cats
Geelong picked up the best player available in free agency last year. With such a boon, there’s no way that the Cats won’t play a part in the premiership contest this year.

Kardinia Park is always hard to win at, giving the Cats eight wins before they even leave home. With Nathan Vardy looking like he might finally be fit consistently and Daniel Menzel back from long-long-term injury, they have a very strong looking forward line.

Their midfield is one of, if not the, strongest in the league, especially now that you consider they’ve doubled their Selwood ratio, and their defence is solid.

The Cats have been one of the most successful clubs of the last few years and this year will be another one where we are repeatedly reminded of opera bullfighters.

1. Greater Western Sydney Giants
Men and women of The Roar, meet your premiers. With a squad boasting the best young talent in the country along with a few brilliant veterans, everyone is expecting the Giants to one day dominate the AFL, I say this is that day.

Jeremy Cameron is brilliant, Callan Ward a gun, Dylan Shiel a master, Lachie Whitfield a something else positive. With the new addition of Steve Johnson in the forward line, along with last year’s best and fairest winner Heath “For” Shaw in defence and one of the most influential ruckmen in Shane “Mother Dearest” Mumford, the Giants have the skills to go all the way now. (Which I would be absolutely fine with.)

That’s what I “picked,” Roarers. What do you think?

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