Through three weeks the West Coast Eagles have already given up 100 more points than they’ve scored.
They trailed Greater Western Sydney Giants – not a powerhouse nor a flag favourite themselves – by the mind-boggling score of 34-0 after three quarters.
Zero. No goals, no behinds.
Their first goal looked to be the result of their opponents giving up on the play for some reason – the entire fourth quarter was played with far less intensity than the first three were. This was the same GWS that was doubled up by the Kangaroos and scored single digits in admittedly terrible conditions against another expansion team, Gold Coast, on the opening weekend. After three games West Coast’s overall scoreline reads like something from University’s last days in the AFL: 40 points for, 140 points against.
On the other hand, that Gold Coast Suns team they lost to is literally one point from an undefeated season after three weeks. Following that nail-biting loss on the road, they won by 11 against Richmond and then came from two goals-plus down in the initial Q Clash to forge a draw with the former minor premiers, their rivals to the north, who lead Conference A.
Richmond has a plethora of name-brand talent, including Christina Bernardi (formerly a Giant), Katie Brennan and Monique Conti (formerly Bulldogs) and Sabrina Frederick (the former Lion), and we’ve only reached the letter F on the roster. But so far they’ve succeeded only in becoming the first team to lose to a 2020 expansion team (Gold Coast by 11) and the first team to give up double-digit goals in a game this season (12 to North on Sunday). But at least they aren’t 100 points behind their opponents after only three games like West Coast is.
They’re 101 behind.
(Will Russell /AFL Photos via Getty Images)
By contrast, the Saints pulled off the biggest upset of the season Friday night by taking down Conference B favourite Melbourne 19-14, holding the Demons to just one goal from 31 inside 50s. That’s approximately a three per cent success rate. While St Kilda’s own goal rate was just under 20 per cent, it was still five times better than that of their more experienced opponent.
The women from Moorabin have done what you would hope every new team would do: improve significantly from week to week, going from a steep learning experience against the Dogs to a lead held until halfway through the final quarter with the defenders from Adelaide to this stubbornly persistent victory over a Demons club rated as the flag favourite coming into Week 3.
Every season, as part of the ‘Following Football’ preview of the AFL seasons for each gender, we collect every functional prediction we can find for the outcome of the season to come. We as a collective intelligence showed we have a lot to learn about prognostication – of the four expansion teams Richmond was expected to be the best of the four and Gold Coast the worst. St Kilda and West Coast were virtually tied for the second-to-last post. Instead it’s the Suns and the Saints who have already won games this season, while the Tigers and Eagles can only rue that they aren’t scheduled to play each other in 2020 in this conference system.
Shows how much we know.
Here’s what we do know about Week 4 on the AFLW calendar
Friday: Collingwood (2-1) versus Melbourne (2-1)
Odds: Melbourne by 4.5.
ELO-Following Football ratings: Melbourne by 3.
Fan consensus: Melbourne 51-49 (hardly a consensus!).
We like the Demons to roar back from an embarrassing defeat last Friday night, but Collingwood’s the real deal. Both teams took their first losses after two strong wins, but Melbourne kicked 1.8 against an expansion team, while Collingwood lost to the current premiership favourite despite winning the inside 50 count and out-disposing the Dockers by 93. They had two more scoring shots as well but lost 5.3 to 4.6 – not nearly as disconcerting as 3.1 to 1.8, true, but equally fixable.
The Pies were also on the west coast last week and have one fewer day to recover than Melbourne does. The Dees are also playing their third straight game under the Friday night lights, which adds up to just enough of a comfort edge for me to pick the Dees in a very close match. I don’t feel comfortable saying they cover after the Pies came so close in Fremantle, though.
(Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Saturday: Richmond (0-3) versus Geelong (0-3)
Odds: Geelong by 13.5.
ELO-Following Football ratings: Geelong by one.
Fan consensus: Richmond is favoured by 62 per cent of tipsters in the two contests we follow. Is that fans being fans or do they know something the oddsmakers don’t?
Experience beats expansion, even if that experience is winless too. But the Cats played a good Adelaide team toe to toe on Sunday and have been reasonably competitive in all three losses to potential finals teams. They’re certainly the best of the winless teams in the league, and they’ll be leaving that club this weekend.
Geelong wins by a goal or two at least – I won’t guarantee they make the 13.5, however.
(Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Saturday: North Melbourne (2-1) versus Gold Coast (1-1-1)
Odds: Kangaroos by 18.5.
ELO-Following Football ratings: Kangaroos by 19.
Fan consensus: 97 per cent favour the Kangaroos.
As impressive as these young Suns have been, it’s hard not to pick the Roos after the shellacking they gave Richmond Sunday, a team the Suns had a competitive game against before winning. While Gold Coast never led the Tigers by 20, North had a 44-4 lead at half-time and cruised home by 56 on Sunday. St Kilda has taught us never to use relativism to make our picks, but in this case it’s merely confirmation of a known bias.
Kangaroos cover and win.
(Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
Saturday: West Coast (0-3) versus Bulldogs (1-2)
Odds: Bulldogs by 12.5
ELO-Following Football ratings: Bulldogs by seven.
Fan consensus: The Bulldogs are the picks of 65 per cent of tipsters.
West Coast is the lowest-rated of the 14 clubs on the AFLW circuit. In fact they’re on a pace to possibly put up the first winless season in league history – unless Richmond beats them to it; the Tigers are scheduled to finish their Round 8 game two hours before the Eagles play theirs. While the Doggies aren’t performing as they’d have hoped so far this season, playing an expansion team, particularly this expansion team, cures quite a few ills.
Bulldogs win and cover. (I hope. More than two goals? That’s probably safe. Probably.)
(Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Sunday: Adelaide (2-1) versus Carlton (2-1)
Odds: Adelaide by 8.5.
ELO-Following Football ratings: Adelaide by eight.
Fan consensus: Adelaide chosen by 84 per cent.
This could be the best game of the round and will hopefully be much more competitive than the last time these two squads faced each other – the 2019 grand final, a 63-18 Crows victory remembered more for Erin Phillips’s injury than any goal scored in the game. Here’s praying Phillips returns for this game in particular and the Blues welcome her onto the oval by not re-injuring her in any way.
As for the outcome, Adelaide has been improving week by week, but they aren’t the powerhouse they were last year, at least not without the stars they’re missing. They covered for the first time this season by half a point last week, but that’s too narrow for my money. Crows win, no call on the cover.
Sunday: St Kilda (1-2) versus Fremantle (3-0)
Odds: Fremantle by 10.5.
ELO-Following Football ratings: Fremantle by 4.5.
Fan consensus: 82 per cent favour the Dockers.
When you’ve just put together a monumental victory, especially one where perhaps it took a bit of luck to win – like, say, your opponent kicking 1.8 to your 3.1 – you’re due for a let-down the following week.
When that following week’s game comes against a defending finalist and the only team in the league with a perfect record so far, that likelihood increases.
And when the team you’ll be playing sees three highly competent rivals just one game in their rear-view mirror, those chances increase to near certainty. Fremantle wins and covers.
Sunday: Brisbane (2-0-1) versus Greater Western Sydney (2-1)
Odds: Brisbane by 6.5.
ELO-Following Football ratings: say Brisbane by 6.5.
Fan consensus: Brisbane’s favoured by a surprisingly high 95 per cent of tipping contestants.
The Giants put on a show last Sunday for their Blacktown faithful with three perfect quarters of defence and a five-goal victory over West Coast. But this won’t be an expansion Eagles club they’re facing this week; it’ll be a bruising Brisbane, a conference-leading Lions club that will have a home-ground advantage as well as a demonstrated scheme edge over the Giants. As long as the Lions backline can keep the footy from the Giant forwards for the most part, they’ll be the key to another Brisbane victory.
It’s worth noting that as always with a top team that draws the percentage no longer carries the import it once did because the Lions – and the Suns, for that matter – are now ‘out of phase’ with their opponents given that half game in their premiership point totals. There won’t be any percentage tie breakers to worry about unless they’re with each other, so Brisbane’s only real concern is to win, not necessarily win big, this week.
Brisbane wins, but with the ELO spread equaling the oddsmakers’ estimate, I’m not prepared to pick either side of the spread, especially if the Lions no longer need to worry about margin.
Last week and overall
I picked five and a half from seven – counting the draw as a half – to move to 16.5 out of 21 for the season.
The oddsmakers and the fans were each at 5.5 to go to 14.5 – 6.5 overall – while ELO-FF picked the right side of the line to win that game and took six out of seven chocolates and sits at 15-6.