Is the unpredictability of Round 1 fact or fiction?

AFLBOLDPredictions Roar Rookie

By AFLBOLDPredictions, AFLBOLDPredictions is a Roar Rookie


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    Since the start of the 2010 season, favourites have won 72.6 per cent of all home-and-away matches, but in Round 1 this winning percentage drops to just 59.1 per cent.

    This has made Round 1 the most unpredictable of the season, and provides a cautionary note to tipsters that playing it too safe in the opening round can be a short cut to the middle rungs of your competition ladder.

    Breaking down the performances of favourites playing at home versus away provides further insight.

    When looking exclusively at teams playing away, across all matches they have a win rate of 69.1 per cent but for Round 1 it is only 44.4 per cent.

    So what makes Round 1 that little more unpredictable?

    Sometimes betting markets or the wider footy public’s perceived expectations just don’t add up and this is especially so in Round 1.

    It’s a lot easier in hindsight of course, but across a summer and preseason of analysis, some factors can be made to seem larger or more important than they actually might be, while other are glossed over.


    This time last year, the Eagles were premiership favourites, and at the end of the 2016 home-and-away season they were only a win and percentage from first place. Their regular season finished with nine wins from their last ten home-and-away matches and they were one of the form sides entering the finals.

    Jump forward to preseason 2017 and the Eagles have lost their ‘next big thing’ tag and you can’t find many experts tipping them for the premiership. They have been described as ‘flat-track bullies’ who need to improve away from Domain Stadium, while Gary Lyon identified Jack Darling as needing to lift in big games outside of Perth.

    A review of the Eagles’ performances away from Domain Stadium reveals a five-win, five-loss record. Wins included games against the 2017 flag favourites the Giants, as well as 2016 preliminary finalists Adelaide.

    In terms of defeats, four of their five away losses came against the highly credentialled Swans, Hawks, Cats and Dogs.

    Darling kicked 18 of his 44 goals (40%) in these ten matches – an even performance for a key forward who started the season aged 23.

    Sure, these might not be the performances at a team or individual level that Adam Simpson will be hoping for in 2017, but neither are they as dire as some might have you think.

    In terms of information not given enough weighting, one variable largely underestimated by commentators and markets is the impact a new coach can have.

    Since 1997 there have been 61 new coaches appointed across the league. The average ladder change for these teams has been a move of 1.4 positions up the ladder. When you look exclusively at the 35 teams who have moved up the ladder, they have bumped by an average 4.7 places.

    A recent example came last year, when Brendon Bolton took over a Carlton outfit fresh off a wooden spoon. Despite a new coach at the helm, there was little optimism at Princess Park in 2016, even less after a Blues side made up of rookies was trounced by the suspension-hit Bombers in the preseason.


    Yet when the real stuff started, the Blues surprised, opening the season with six wins in the first 11 games before eventually finishing in 14th place. Not a mind-blowing result, but still a lot better than predicted.

    In 2017 we see new head coaches at both Brisbane and Melbourne. Many expect the Dees, led by Simon Goodwin, to move up the ladder in 2017, while the Lions are being heavily predicted to finish last.

    Yes, Brisbane has the most inexperienced list in the competition, but they also have a stack of young talent, a few quality senior players returning from injury, and a former captain, who happens to be a past all-Australian, with a point to prove in 2017.

    With a new coach at the helm, who says the Lions are not capable of securing the wins that will keep them off the bottom of the ladder?

    When you sit down to make your selections for Round 1, try to see through the hype and hyperbole. Take a second look at the underdog, especially if they are playing at home, because if history is any guide they will win more than they will lose.

    (Author’s note: I now firmly accept that, after choosing to highlight the historical unpredictability of Round 1 seven days out from the start of a new season, the 2017 edition will go exactly as expected.)

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • March 15th 2017 @ 12:04pm
      Birdman said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

      Good read.

      I have a feeling that the Bombers might beat the odds against Hawthorn for a whole lot of reasons in round 1 before tapering off.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 3:03pm
        AFLBOLDPredictions said | March 15th 2017 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

        Cheers Birdman.

        I have been tossing up on this game already . . Both sides have new captain’s, both have hugely emotive stories around returning players. Essendon getting back it’s suspended players the Hawks getting the beloved ‘Roughy’ back from illness.

        Will kick myself if I pick the wrong way which knowing my history I will . .

    • Roar Rookie

      March 15th 2017 @ 1:44pm
      Antony Pincombe said | March 15th 2017 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

      he problem with predictions or round one form is that it is judged and predicted on the preseason games. Take last year. Collingwood won all their matches very easily but were trounced by the swans in round one. The Pies fans blamed the drugs saga, the moon, Islam, you name it. But the reality was the Pies were unprepared for a top quality outfit on their home deck. They seemed to think because of their previous record and the preseason all they had to do was turn up.

      The preseason competition is no indicator of how a team is going to perform in the season proper. There are several reasons why but the main is that some sides don’t take the games seriously as competition but try new tactics. sometimes tactics work and sometimes they don’t and back to the drawing board the coaches go. This creates a false expectation. Pies were fantastic, Swans were ordinary, therefore Pies will flog Swans. Didn’t happen because Longmire and the swans coaching staff used the preseason to tweak some problem areas and try young players. Whereas Pies used it to give strength to their experienced line up and create some false confidence. This gave a very false impression of the strength of both sides.

      The upshot is disregard the form in the preseason and look very carefully at each team’s list and injury concerns. Look especially at the mids, runners and the spine. That will give you a good indication of what the form of a side will be. Take the Swans in the first 2-6 matches of 2017. They will be without at least 6 players who would normally walk into their side. Port on the other hand look quite healthy and have Paddy returning. This could well be an upset as the Swans play young players, some yet untried in the H&A season. But is depth a factor here? Do the swans have that deep list? That you will have to judge and then make a decision on. I use these two examples because they are incredibly relevant not because I am a swans member. They were the first two to come to mind.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 2:58pm
        AFLBOLDPredictions said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

        The preseason clearly another obvious misleader of thought and opinion.

        A factor I see here is the lack of in-depth coverage of matches outside of the final score and which ‘best 22’ players were missing. This limits the valuable information that can be drawn from games, as an example, this preseason we have seen some coaches use full benches while other limit player use and rotations clearly impacting outcome but not overly discussed in media or reports.

        • Roar Guru

          March 15th 2017 @ 3:25pm
          Cat said | March 15th 2017 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

          As outsiders, even the media has no idea internally what each AFL clubs goals are through each game. Sometimes it is clear when players are trialed in different positions, other times it is hard to tell if new tactics are being tried or certain players being benched/rested to see if other players can step up or wrest control of a game. Hard to know if a coach is experimenting or if players are just playing poorly and/or holding back.

    • Roar Guru

      March 15th 2017 @ 2:03pm
      AJ Mithen said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

      Nice read. I’m always wary of the teams who have finals intentions when round one comes along… It means something different to the team who need to win for memberships!

    • March 16th 2017 @ 8:18am
      hal said | March 16th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      Lions to upset Gold Coast in round one. Lions won’t finish bottom. Richmond a possibility of finishing eighth. Saints to make the eight and Melbourne to miss out on the eight. These are some of my predictions.

      • March 16th 2017 @ 11:07am
        I hate pies said | March 16th 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

        Geelong to miss the eight. Other teams to tag Dangerwood and Geelong to capitulate because of it. Chris Scott’s head to explode after a reasonable umpiring decision goes against them and costs them the game.

      • March 28th 2017 @ 4:55pm
        AFLBOLDPredictions said | March 28th 2017 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

        Spot on there Hal with regards to Brisbane.

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