Today’s article encompasses the meta-forecast for the 2020 AFLW season in general, and Round 1 in particular.
To those unfamiliar with the term ‘meta’ in this context, what I do is gather as many semi-educated predictions about the upcoming season and weight an average out of them to give you the general sense of what the footy world is expecting to happen over the next 11 weeks. It won’t be any more accurate than the sum of its parts, so I’ll sneak my own thoughts in there as well.
According to said sums, the conferences will be more evenly balanced this year. The top two teams are both expected to come from Conference A again – the top four were there last year – but five of the next six are Conference B teams. That implies that four of the six worst teams are in Conference A, perhaps inflating the records of those top two teams as the season progresses.
It brings up a common argument: do you want an easier schedule that gives you a better chance at finals or a high seeding, or a more challenging set of opponents that will shape you into a hardened team come finals time?
Here’s the ranked order of the 14 AFLW teams, as chosen by a wide range of publications and professionals.
1. Adelaide Crows (A)
2. North Melbourne Kangaroos (A)
3. Carlton Blues (B)
4. Fremantle Dockers (B)
5. Melbourne Demons (B)
6. Richmond Tigers (A)
7. Collingwood Magpies (B)
8. Western Bulldogs (B)
9. GWS Giants (A)
10. Geelong Cats (A)
11. Brisbane Lions (A)
12. St Kilda Saints (B)
13. West Coast Eagles (B)
14. Gold Coast Suns (A)
A few notes on this list. There were some conference adjustments over the off-season, as the league moved Freo, Melbourne and the Dogs from A to B, and Geelong, Brisbane and the Giants from B to A. Perhaps the league really moved the other four teams and switched the conference names – I don’t know. Richmond and Gold Coast (possibly the strongest and the weakest of the four expansion teams) were placed in A, and St Kilda and West Coast in B.
So if these rankings are to be believed – and I haven’t fiddled with the numbers in any way, I simply added up the rankings from each source and ranked them by those totals – then Conference A holds the top two teams, the Crows and Roos, with the other teams ranked at sixth, ninth, tenth, 11th and last. Four of the bottom six and the top two teams are expected to be in A, which makes the battle for the third finals berth crucial.
Meanwhile, Conference B is expected to have five teams battling for those three berths – Carlton, Fremantle, Melbourne, the Magpies and Bulldogs – while the two expansion teams are assumed to settle to the bottom.
Historically, each of those five teams has had highs and lows, with varying degrees of success. The Bulldogs have a title to their name, although they followed that up finishing last in their conference last year. Carlton made finals last season, but Freo and Melbourne actually had better seasons, record-wise. Collingwood’s season last year gave them a spoon, but their two previous years were around .500 and reasonably competitive.
Overall, the Crows were unanimously expected to make finals, and more than half think the Crows should have the inside track for their third title in four years. The Kangaroos missed out on finals in their first year by the skin of their conference placement, but a vast majority of forecasters expect them to make finals, with a few thinking they should be in the grand final.
Besides Richmond, which have predictions ranging from third overall to dead last, forecasters see a possibility that Geelong could be a finalist, more so than Brisbane or GWS, who each have only one or two folks thinking they’ll play a ninth game. Gold Coast aren’t as locked on the bottom as their male counterparts, but there’s no expectation of them making finals this season.
On the B side, Fremantle were the club most often considered a playoff team – not quite unanimous but close. Melbourne’s expectation came close to that as well, with the large majority of predictions placing the Demons in the finals as well. After that, Carlton has a plurality of finals forecasts, with a couple of predictors expecting the Bulldogs or Collingwood to be making a finals appearance. The Saints and Eagles are not supposed to be the wooden spoon winners, but neither are they thought to be finals fodder.
Our own predictions at Following Football place the same three teams in finals in each conference, with Adelaide and North Melbourne the two strongest teams and Richmond as likely as anyone to make the third finals slot. Personally, I don’t think their midfield and defence will hold up. I’m leaning towards the Giants myself. We have Melbourne most likely to take the top seed in Conference B, followed very closely by the Dockers and Blues, with the possibility of the Saints or Eagles striking gold and challenging for a finals berth.
Here are our predictions for week one of the AFLW season.
Richmond ‘host’ Carlton at Ikon Park, somehow. Although the Tigers are 2.5-point favourites, we expect the Blues to take the opening game comfortably.
GWS host Gold Coast. The Giants are favoured by 14.5, which seems high. We think they will win by less than that margin.
Melbourne host the Kangaroos. While the Roos are favoured by 2.5, the Demons should take this game outright in Daisy Pearce’s return.
Brisbane host Adelaide. Even without MVP Erin Phillips, the Crows should win easily, by more than the predicted 10.5 points.
Collingwood host West Coast. Favoured by 10.5, the Magpies may very well win their opener over the expansion Eagles, but a two-goal win seems a big order in game one. If you play the margin, take West Coast.
St Kilda host the Bulldogs. The Doggies are favoured by 6.5 points, and should win by more than that.
Fremantle host Geelong.Bookies have the Dockers winning by 5.5 points. Our ELO rating system has them winning by something closer to 19 points, so take the points and the purple.
And speaking of our ELO-Following Football ratings, those ratings currently have Adelaide favoured in all eight home-and-away games.
Our game prediction record last year was 26-9 during the regular season, and 28-10 overall.