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Opinion

AFLW Round 3 at a glance

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Roar Guru
20th February, 2020
2

Hands up all of you who had Gold Coast ahead of Adelaide at any point in the 2020 AFLW season, as they are right now.

I’ll bet you’re Queenslanders picking the men’s team to win ten games as well, aren’t you?

Regardless, congratulations to the Suns, who earned the first win by an expansion club this season, and are within a point of being undefeated. They’re also the highest such club in the ELO Following Football rating ladder after two weeks of the 2020 season.

1. Adelaide (60.7)
2. Fremantle (59.6)
3. Melbourne (57.8)
4. Kangaroos (57.1)
5. Carlton (52.6)
6. Collingwood (50.8)
7. Bulldogs (49.2)
8. Brisbane (48.8)
9. Gold Coast (46.9)
10. St Kilda (46.6)
11. GWS (44.2)
12. Richmond (42.8)
13. West Coast (39.3)
14. Geelong (38.6)

There’s obviously quite an amount of residual from last season in those numbers. Originally, we used a 50.0 starting point for the four new clubs this year. But when there were no Kangaroo leapers this season, we retrofitted them to a lower starting point (47.5) that seemed to best fit their level of play. From there, two went up and two went down each week.

On this season’s performance alone, you’d have to figure the Dockers would be first, Adelaide more towards the middle of the pack (somewhere well below Brisbane), and perhaps Geelong don’t deserve to be last. But even with such a short season, these things balance out soon enough. And yet the only game these rating forecasts missed on last week was the Magpies’ victory at Ikon Park, which we all missed.

We also track standings for the meta-player of the year in both men’s and women’s AFL action, based on a collection of week-by-week evaluations. We have nine we’re using this season on the AFLW side. Without any carryover from 2019 to worry about, Fremantle get their just due here.

1. Kiara Bowers (Fremantle) – 89 points
2. Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood) – 66 points
3. Jasmine Garner (Kangaroos) – 64 points
4. Dana Hooker (West Coast) – 62 points
5. Anne Hatchard (Adelaide) – 61 points

Brisbane’s highest point-getters so far are Emily Bates and Sophie Conway, each with 50. The other unbeaten team (Melbourne) have three players at or above 49. Every team has at least one player in the top 30 league-wide, at or above 40 points through two games. And no team has more than four in that range. So there’s a surprisingly even distribution of talent throughout the league already on display through one quarter of the season.

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Here’s the prognosis for week three:

St Kilda vs Melbourne at RSEA Park
Odds: Melbourne by 15.5
ELO-Following Football forecast: Melbourne by 13
Fan consensus: Melbourne chosen by 94 per cent of tipping contestants

Until proven wrong, I would like to posit the following foolproof prediction criteria for this season’s home-and-away games: experienced teams beat expansion teams.

Here’s transitive exhibit B as regards this match-up: St Kilda lost to the Doggies by 25. The Demons barely let Footscray score, allowing just two shots on goal, while winning by 20 and never shifting out of second gear.

Take Melbourne and the points.

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Western Bulldogs vs Carlton at Whitten Oval
Odds: Carlton by 4.5
ELO-Following Football forecast: Carlton by 3.5
Fan consensus: 62 per cent chose Carlton

On paper, this is the closest match of the weekend – two good teams both coming off embarrassing defeats. Carlton lost for the first time against their original rival, and despite still sitting 3-1 all-time against the Pies, their opponents felt cocky enough to start a bulletin board war after the contest.

Meanwhile, the night before, the Doggies played so poorly that had the minor technicalities of the Australian game matched those in Ireland, they would have been scoreless through three quarters.

Every piece of evidence leads me to think that I can’t argue with the oddsmakers this time, so I’d simply take Carlton to win by about that margin – a goal, maybe less.

Gold Coast vs Brisbane at Metricon Stadium
Odds: Brisbane by 13.5
ELO-Following Football forecast: Gold Coast by two (management does not agree with the computer here, for reasons already explained above)
Fan consensus: Brisbane by 82 per cent of tipsters

With the inaugural women’s Western Derby drawing 35,000 to Optus last week despite the obvious mismatch, expect a five-figure crowd to arrive to see the surprise leader of the expansion bracket versus the surprise leader of Conference A.

The added tang of having so many former Lions switching to a different hue of red and gold adds to the intrigue. Unfortunately, it’s hard to picture the outcome being tangibly different from the 45-point dismantling by Fremantle last week.

Take the Lions, and if you’re brave enough, take the points. I’m not. Despite what I said, ELO was correct last week when everyone else took Richmond, and anything can happen in a rivalry game. I’m taking Brisbane, and that’s as far as I stick my neck out this time.

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Fremantle vs Collingwood at Fremantle Oval
Odds: Fremantle by 8.5
ELO-Following Football forecast: Freo by 12
Fan consensus: The Dockers are the choice of 85 per cent of tipsters

The cynic automatically takes last year’s 6-1 finalist over last year’s 1-6 spoon-holder. But the Magpies are as different from last year’s version as the 2019 Dockers were from the prior year’s version, and the speed they’re playing with now is precisely what the team was begged to do last year.

Despite the talent on both sides of the field, however, only one team has Kiara Bowers, who through two games is the undisputed queen of the oval.

Kiara Bowers

(Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Add a flight across the country and commensurate home-field disadvantage for Collingwood, and Fremantle is the easy choice. Can they be counted on to win by a goal and a half? Well, that’s less than one goal for each of the two quarters they’ll have the wind with them on a traditionally windy field, so I’ll go out on a breezy limb and say yes.

Take the Dockers and the points.

GWS vs West Coast at Blacktown
Odds: Greater Western Sydney by 15.5
ELO-Following Football forecast: Giants by 9
Fan consensus: 89 per cent of fans are picking GWS in their last Blacktown game of the season

This is the only inter-conference game of the week, which irritates those of us who wish the season were long enough to at least see every pairing once. But that’s unavoidable given the circumstances and priorities.

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Remember, experienced beats expansion – especially at home, even when their only win is a one-point win over another expansion team. But it’s hard for me to imagine guaranteeing that this Giants team will even score 16 points, much less win by that much.

Take the Giants to win, but I’m sticking with the Eagles to cover the spread – and that’s more of a statement about my Giants than about the Eagles.

Richmond vs Kangaroos at Swinburne
Odds: Kangaroos by 14.5
ELO-Following Football forecast: Kangas by 12
Fan consensus: 90 per cent of tips are going the Shinboners’ way

Experienced beats expansion, but more than that, the best-ever expansion club beats the only team to lose to an expansion club this season. And even more than that, the Kangaroos’ loss to Melbourne looks much less damaging after the Demons’ full-throated romp over a good Bulldogs team, while Richmond’s losses to Carlton and Gold Coast look even worse when you consider the other game each of those two clubs have played. The Blues lost by three goals to last year’s wooden spoon winner, while the Suns scored all of eight points against a fairly ineffectual Giants team.

It’s hard to look at Richmond’s talent and think there’s a winless team. But it’s also hard to look at the rest of their schedule and decide where their first win will come from. If the Saints are decent, and last week they stayed closer to Adelaide than the Tigers did to Gold Coast, then last week might have been their best shot. Here’s hoping they become much more cohesive from end to end quickly.

In the meantime, Kangaroos win, cover, and rout.

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Geelong vs Adelaide at GMHBA
Odds: Adelaide by 10.5
ELO-Following Football forecast: Crows by 18
Fan consensus: Adelaide are favoured by just 65 per cent, which disturbs me slightly.

How valuable are those missing parts for Adelaide? Just based on the performances so far this month, I don’t see a way to pick the Cats barring some highly creative grounds-keeping at GMHBA.

Officially these are both experienced clubs, but Adelaide have won two premierships, while Geelong are the only non-expansion team to start the season 0-2. When they needed an extra gear last week to win in crunch time, the Crows blew past a competent Saints team without raising a sweat in the fourth.

Depending on who’s playing for them this week, Adelaide’s winning margin could be anywhere from the two goals they finally won by last Sunday to the 11 goals they defeated these Cats by the last time they played, in the 2019 prelim final. Giving Geelong the benefit of the home field, let’s cross out the 11 possibility out of courtesy.

Adelaide cover the spread, winning by somewhere from two to eight goals.

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Last week, the oddsmakers were five of seven, I was five of seven, ELO-FF was six of seven (picking Gold Coast over Richmond), and the fan consensus was right just three times. Overall, my own picks are 11-3, while all three other avenues of prediction have nine right over two weeks.