Looking at Roun 14, the final abbreviated weekend of the season before the home stretch, we see four games of some question regarding the outcome, while Geelong and Collingwood look to be secure favourites on the road.
Here are the forecasts for the weekend.
West Coast vs Essendon
Oddsmakers started with a three-goal spread for the home team; ELO-Following Football puts it at about half that (ten points, to be exact). The Eagles hold the advantage in the percentage/home field system (a very simple system you can do in your head – if either team’s percentage is at least eight above the other’s, they’re the favourite. If the teams are within eight points in percentage, favour the home team).
By the way, both the oddsmakers and the ELO-FF ratings have hit 74 correct this year; the percentage-HFA has faded back to 67 correct after being right with the others for quite a few weeks. All three were six-for-six last week.
There aren’t very many outstanding teams this season. Looking at the meta-ratings, the combination of nine major computer system rating systems, Geelong’s sitting at 83.61, a very impressive number in any season. GWS and Collingwood are both in the low 70s (Giants at 72, Pies just above 70). No other team is above 62, meaning well down into the ‘about average’ range.
West Coast and Essendon are both marginally above average, but not by much. The Eagles’ home field advantage, like Fremantle’s, is formidable because of the sheer distance required to reach Perth from the rest of the nation. But it’s not a three-goal advantage, and I see a close game tilting to the West.
Sydney vs Hawthorn
Both oddsmakers and the ELO-FF have this about ten points in the Swans’ favour, although their poor start pushes their percentage down to where the %/HFA system favours Hawthorn.
Normally, I’d lean with the Swans here, but for the hullaballoo around team captain and schoolyard bully Ben Stratton. Alastair Clarkson is a master at using the ‘us against the world’ card to motivate his team, and I find it difficult not to envision his Hawks coming out with guns ablaze, the defence slamming down on their old buddy Franklin, and Hawthorn returning to the alternating win-loss pattern they’ve held steady with all year, ending their current two-game losing streak. The Buffalo picks Hawthorn to win outright.
Melbourne vs Fremantle
The oddsmakers picked the Demons by a goal to open; the ELO-FF has Fremantle by three points, and the percentage/HFA favours the high percentage of the Dockers.
Is Fremantle a finals-quality team? I’m not sure. Are Melbourne a wooden spoon candidate? Most assuredly so. I can’t explain why, because the Demons simply shouldn’t be this bad. My only doubts arise from the bye: it’s very possible that the two-week break allowed Melbourne to get some things figured out, especially defensively. But without evidence, I can’t make that call. Fremantle to win outright.
St Kilda vs Brisbane
The Lions are favoured by one goal in the oddsmakers’ eyes and two in the ELO-FF ratings, and are the pick of the percentage/HFA system as well. Nevertheless, it’s much closer than that makes it appear – two of the computer methods we follow call the game a draw, and a third chooses ‘Brisbane by zero’ (which means one-to-three tenths of a point). A coin-flip game.
The Buffalo has tremendous faith in the Lions; he has far less in the Saints. St Kilda’s wins have come against Carlton, Gold Coast (twice, barely), Melbourne, Essendon in Round 2 when they still sucked, and a weak Hawthorn team by only five.
Except for the rout of the pitiful Demons, their next biggest win is by 13 points. Except for a five-point loss to Fremantle, their next smallest loss is by 18 to West Coast. The 2019 record is deceptive; the team still isn’t very good. The Buffalo takes Brisbane plus the spread.
Port Adelaide vs Geelong, Western Bulldogs vs Collingwood
Don’t spend a lot of time overthinking these. There’s a good reason the Cats and Magpies are heavily favoured – they’re two of the three outstanding teams in the league this season. All systems prefer the two visiting teams, and we’ll take them both plus the points.
So who leads the “Following Football Meta-Player of the Year” scoreboard?
Here is the leaderboard from our tally of points from sixteen sources of weekly player evaluations:
1. Patrick Cripps – 362 points
2. Tim Kelly – 307
3. Nat Fyfe – 304
4. Lachie Neale – 300
5. Brodie Grundy – 282
6. Jeremy Cameron – 281
7. Max Gawn – 273
8. Gary Ablett – 268
9. Patrick Dangerfield – 259
10. Travis Boak – 254
11. Marcus Bontempelli – 240
12. Stephen Coniglio – 239
13. Michael Walters – 233
14. Scott Pendlebury – 227
15. Lachie Whitfield – 220
16. Ben Cunnington – 217
17. Shaun Higgins – 216
18. Brad Crouch – 200
19. Tim Taranto – 199
20. Rory Sloane – 195
Eleven teams are represented in the top 20; here are the top players from the other seven clubs:
Hawthorn: Ricky Henderson (21st, 185 pts)
West Coast: Shannon Hurn (23rd, 183 pts)
Richmond: Dustin Martin (27th, 170 pts)
Sydney: Tom Papley (36th, 156 pts)
Essendon: Zach Merrett (38th, 148 pts)
St Kilda: Jake Gresham (41st, 146 pts)
Gold Coast: David Swallow (47th, 138 pts)
There are teams like West Coast and Essendon which may not have one highly ranked player, but rather several that are similarly ranked. The Bombers, for example, may not have anyone appear until Merrett at 38, but then they have Dylan Shiel, Dyson Heppell, and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti all in the 40s right behind him.
On the other hand, Carlton may have the top-ranked player – Patrick Cripps has retaken a significant lead on the pack in recent weeks – but their next highest players are Sam Walsh and Harry McKay, ranked down in the 70s.
We also trace something akin to the Brownlow Medal voting, where we track what we call ‘dominant’, ‘prominent’, and ‘notable’ performances, based on the number of evaluative sources that recognise each particular player’s outstanding game. By
scoring the dominant-prominent-notable games in a 3-2-1 manner, akin to the Brownlow voting, we have a tally which resembles the form of the official votes, with the exception that there is no restriction on how many players receive each number of votes. Some games may have two dominant players; others may have none. Because of the uncertainty of who the officials vote for, though, we haven’t changed this – it’s a design feature, not a flaw.
Here are the 18 players who’ve reached double-digit points already from this system.
1. Patrick Cripps (CA) – 5 Dominant, 2 Prominent, 1 Notable = 20 points from eight games
2. Tim Kelly (GE) – 2 D, 3 P, 3 N = 15 points from eight games
3. Nat Fyfe (FR) – 3 D, 3 P = 15 points from six games
4. Max Gawn (ME) – 2 D, 4 P = 14 points from six games
5. Brodie Grundy (CW) – 4 D, 1 P = 14 points from five games
6. Rory Sloane (AD) – 2 D, 2 P, 3 N = 13 points from seven games
7. Lachie Neale (BR) – 2 D, 3 P, 1 N = 13 points from six games
8. Gary Ablett, Jr (GE) – 3 D, 2 P = 13 points from five games
9. Jeremy Cameron (GW) – 3 D, 1 P, 1 N = 12 points from five games
10. Lachie Whitfield (GW) – 1 D, 3 P, 2 N = 11 points from six games
11. Travis Boak (PA) – 1 D, 3 P, 2 N = 11 points from six games
12. Paddy Dangerfield (GE) – 2 D, 2 P, 1 N = 11 points from five games
13. Tim Taranto (GW) – 4 P, 2 N = 10 points from six games
14. Bachar Houli (RI) – 4 P, 2 N = 10 points from six games
15. Rick Henderson (HA) – 1 D, 3 P, 1 N = 10 points from five games
16. Michael Walters (FR) – 3 D, 1 N = 10 points from four games
17. Stephen Coniglio (GW) – 2 D, 2 P = 10 points from four games
18. Marcus Bontempelli (WD) – 2 D, 2 P = 10 points from four games
(Our first tiebreaker was how many games the player earned at least 70 per cent recognition. After that, I just listed the Giants’ player first!)
It’s a very similar list to the Meta-Player of the Year standings, especially in the dominance of the Blues’ young midfield genius. I’m interested to see how the major MVP balloting goes this season – will the best player in the league on a possibly 2-20 team get enough votes to win a Brownlow?