The Roar
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AFL Power Rankings: Round 4

Lewis Jetta. Underrated. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Expert
18th April, 2016
131
3350 Reads

Often in the footy world, there’s too much emphasis put on the W and L columns. There’s a problem with that.

A win over Hawthorn or West Coast is worth four points, exactly the same as a win over Essendon or Carlton. This can, for obvious reasons, skew the real picture.

Performance can also be glossed over simply by getting the four points. A last-gasp victory in a scrappy, unconvincing game is worth the same as a 100-point demolition.

Bring these elements together and you’ll find that beating a strong team by 10 goals is on par with an after-the-siren win over the wooden spooners, in the world of Ws and Ls.

Is this the best way to gauge where a team is at? Is there really enough context?

What I set out to do with these Power Rankings has very little to do with wins and losses. It’s about performance (measured by points for and points against) weighted against quality of opponent (measured by the opponent’s performance).

The intention, to be clear, wasn’t to create an alternative to the ladder. You can see that here. It was to answer the question, where is each team at, right now? (Hence, the most recent games are weighted more heavily than games long gone.)

But there are of course times where the Power Rankings offer a sharp contrast to the ladder. This week is one such time.

North Melbourne are flying right now according to the measure of wins and losses. On top of the ladder, the sole undefeated team. What’s not to like?

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Well, a closer inspection of their performances says they are a good team right now – but not a top tier team.

In round 2, the Roos beat the Brisbane Lions by 34 points. The same Lions side lost by more than 10 goals either side of that match (to teams ranked higher than North in these rankings). It was a good result, maybe, but not a great result.

The next week they were neck-and-neck with Melbourne all afternoon. The Dees remain a side deservedly ranked below North and were only just coming off a loss to Essendon. You wouldn’t classify this as a good result if you took the win out of the equation.

At the weekend, Fremantle stuck with North for three quarters before the Roos eventually got away from them late. Fremantle are winless this season. Given the final margin was 31 points, you might classify this as an OK result, but again, not a great one.

North obviously did have one win that looks pretty great right now, round 1 against Adelaide. That’s looking more impressive with each week.

But re-order the ladder by percentage and suddenly they rank eighth in the competition. Then throw in the fact three of the four sides they’ve faced are more likely to be holidaying in September than playing finals.

You can’t fault the fact North Melbourne haven’t lost. But should we be declaring them the most powerful team in the competition?

I don’t think we should.

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1.Sydney Swans

+1 // Ladder: 3rd (3W, 1L)

The Swans didn’t get the four points after their clash with Adelaide. But they’ve held on to top spot because the overall picture is one of slightly greater strength. (The Crows’ other two wins were against Richmond and Port Adelaide, and wins over these teams have become less valuable.) A great game was played at Adelaide Oval, 11 lead changes and all. Lance Franklin again kicked four, Isaac Heeney joined him, Kurt Tippett had 35 hitouts with his two goals, Dan Hannebery had 38 disposals… there were many bright spots.

2.Adelaide

+1 // Ladder: 7th (3W, 1L)

A big win that solidified their place in the top tier conversation. Crucially, they stood up late, which was lacking in the round 1 loss to North Melbourne. How about Scott Thompson in his 250th? 27 touches, 10 tackles, six clearances. Eddie Betts was this week’s forward line star, but their many options will continue to confound opposition coaches.

3.Western Bulldogs

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+1 // Ladder: 2nd (3W, 1L)

After such a promising start, we can now insert injuries into the Western Bulldogs 2016 narrative. This time last week, Luke Beverage was expecting the worst news on Bob Murphy. This week he’s in the same position on fellow defender Jason Johannisen. Four months is the word on him. A shame after Johannisen’s ripper start to the season.

4.Hawthorn

-3 // Ladder: 8th (3W, 1L)

“For two weeks in a row the better side probably lost,” Alastair Clarkson said after the game. He’s probably right. The Saints took it to the Hawks but maybe aren’t yet at the point developmentally to ice those games off. The narrowness of the last two wins has bumped the Hawks in the rankings, but it’s worth remembering they’re running out with seven players with less than 40 games experience at the moment.

5.West Coast

No change // Ladder: 6th (3W, 1L)

Adam Simpson was wary of a Richmond side being given a timely interstate trip out of the Melbourne footy bubble. In the end, he needn’t have been. The Eagles dominated in points from turnovers, 72-15. And it’s no surprise they had plenty of turnovers to score from: the Tigers were held to just eight inside 50s the entire first half.

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6.Geelong

No change // Ladder: 4th (3W, 1L)

The Cats weren’t at their best in the 30-point win over Essendon. But the 9.18 scoreline told part of that story. It could’ve been a bigger win. Clearances may continue to linger as an issue for this side: Essendon won them 38-27.

7.GWS Giants

+4 // Ladder: 9th (2W, 2L)

A pretty historic win in Canberra over Port Adelaide. The biggest win of the season so far (86 points) was also the Giants’ biggest ever win. They had 94 on the board by half time. Following the win over Geelong two weeks earlier, suddenly the Giants are firm part of the finals conversation.

8.North Melbourne

No change // Ladder: 1st (4W, 0L)

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A trip to play Gold Coast this week will be a chance to move up the rankings. (See intro for more on North Melbourne.)

9.Gold Coast

+1 // Ladder: 5th (3W, 1L)

The bubble burst for the Suns in the QClash. I won’t bring up the fact there were a few criticisms of this team not being higher last week. I won’t bring that up at all. (Though those readers do actually get their wish: Port and Richmond’s crash was the Suns’ gain this week.) As for the fallout from the Lions loss, it’s probably safe for Steven May to go out and book a holiday for the next month.

10.Melbourne

+5 // Ladder: 10th (2W, 2L)

There’s been a fair bit of movement in the bottom half of the rankings and Melbourne were among the beneficiaries. A win over the Pies, a day out for Jack Watts and some impressive numbers out of the midfield unit (Jack Viney with 31 touches, 10 clearances and a goal, Tomas Bugg with 29 disposals and nine tackles). Sunday was a good day to be a Dees fan.

11.Brisbane Lions

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+5 // Ladder: 14th (1W, 3L)

The Lions had an OK-ish start to the year before slipping up against Geelong last week. What a way to respond with a win over the Suns. Pearce Hanley has got people talking and rightly so. Earned best-on honours with 28 touches, seven inside 50s and a pair of goals, including one crucial goal in the last quarter.

12.Port Adelaide

-5 // Ladder: 11th (2W, 2L)

There’s some big problems to work through at Alberton. The Power suffered the biggest loss of the season at the hands of the GWS Giants. Their two-win record suddenly looks very generous. Too many guys are underperforming. The Giants were six short of having double the inside 50s (75-41). Embarrassing.

13.Fremantle

-1 // Ladder: 17th (0W, 4L)

Fremantle kept pace with North Melbourne until the fourth quarter, much in the way they had a good half against West Coast a week earlier. But the fact is, better teams are kicking away from the Dockers right now.

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14.St Kilda

-1 // Ladder: 12th (1W, 3L)

Sometimes the rankings spit out a number that’s a bit disappointing. This was one of those times. The Saints far from disgraced themselves against Hawthorn and most weeks here, they would be given something to show for it. Alas, Melbourne and Brisbane’s wins pushed them up higher instead. After this week’s game, Alastair Clarkson said the better team lost, which says a lot about how well the Saints played. It wasn’t a win, but there were plenty of positives. 10th-gamer Paddy McCartin had some good moments.

15.Richmond

-6 // Ladder: 13th (1W, 3L)

Is it hot in here or is the footy blowtorch turned on? Richmond could’ve been granted a pass mark with a competitive loss to West Coast, but a 68-point drubbing was only ever going to add fuel to the fire. Especially when it could’ve easily been far worse: the Eagles kicked 18.17, the Tigers kicked 9.3. You can tell the playing group are feeling the pressure, which makes it harder to envision any sort of grand turnaround in the near future.

16.Essendon

+1 // Ladder: 16th (1W, 3L)

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There were a lot of fears heading into Season 2016 over how the Bombers would perform. The fears on the extreme, worst-case-scenario end of things have been put to bed. This is an outfit that can compete. So much has the narrative changed, the spotlight heading into Anzac Day is on the other mob.

17.Carlton

+1 // Ladder: 17th (0W, 4L)

Brendon Bolton, as we all expected him to following his Hawthorn press conferences, is staying positive. And so he should. The Blues are 0-4 but they’ve competed and, against the Dogs, showed fight with their backs pushed right against the wall.

18.Collingwood

-4 // Ladder: 15th (1W, 3L)

Yep, it’s this bad. The Pies went into quarter time against Melbourne down by five goals and made efforts to pull their way back but were always rebuffed. It followed the loss to St Kilda last week and the 80-point opening round loss to the Swans. Yes, they beat the Tigers, but isn’t that result looking less impressive by the week?