North Melbourne ‘won’ their first wooden spoon in almost 50 years in 2021, finally reaching the bottom after two decades of mediocrity.
This time of year is an all-you-can-watch buffet for footy fans.
There are 16 games again this weekend, including the last seven of the regular season for the AFLW, with finals spots on the line. Here are the previews for the first Round 9 in AFLW history.
Friday: Western Bulldogs versus Richmond at Whitten Oval
After a winless season and a half, the Tigers have put a few wins on their ledger over the last four weeks. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have lost three straight to teams above them, and they are the only contender to lose to a bottom-six team (St Kilda in Round 1).
It seems like the pieces might be in place for a yellow-and-black upset. But the ELO-Following Football ratings say Doggies by ten, and even though the odds may be against them jumping up to sixth place at weekend’s end, the slim chance of making finals will give them all the encouragement they need to put Richmond away, raise their percentage, and wait to see what happens elsewhere this weekend. Richmond’s chances might be much better had this been the last game of the round, rather than the first.
Here is a turnaround. Richmond holds the AFLW record for longest losing streak, going 0-10 over their first season and a half until Round 4 this February. Yet over the four rounds since then, only Brisbane has a better record than the 3-1 Tigers.
Saturday: North Melbourne versus Fremantle at Arden Street
The maths are simple for the finals-bound Dockers: win and they lock in a home semi next week. Beyond that, a win plus a loss by Brisbane and a Collingwood defeat of Adelaide should give Freo a week off before hosting a prelim final.
Adelaide defeating the Pies by a large margin perversely accomplishes the same thing. What they can’t have is a narrow Crows win that keeps both teams with percentages above theirs. Even with a bad loss, though, Fremantle have a game next weekend.
North is the only top-six team not yet guaranteed to play next week, though all they need is a home win this weekend. But Carlton has an easy-on-paper game against GWS that would put them at 5-4, tied with a losing Kangaroos squad.
Carlton could very well win by 60 again on Sunday if they have to, and even if North only loses by a goal – say, 40-34 – the Blues would only need to win by a score of 60-22, or 65-25, or 70-30 to overtake them. Because Carlton don’t play until Sunday, they’ll have the luxury of determining their margin of victory against a team that has no reason to care.
Mathematically, North have a 2.4-point edge. So motivation will be the determining factor, and the Kangas know they cannot afford to lose. Take North Melbourne to win.
Weirdly, despite having just 12 opponents to choose from, Freo and North have only a single common opponent in 2021: Carlton, who both teams defeated. They are also the only clubs to defeat Carlton since February 5.
Saturday: Melbourne versus Brisbane at Casey Fields
The ELO-FF ratings give Melbourne a three-point edge at home against Brisbane, which is exactly the situation where the Lions seem to thrive (ask Collingwood or Fremantle). Any Brisbane win gives them a home prelim final in two weeks.
Even if they lose, it would take a 63-0 shutout for Melbourne to pass them on percentage and knock them out of a home semi-final. Even then, they cannot finish lower than fifth.
Melbourne are also guaranteed a finals berth, but because of their mortal percentage, they can only avoid the road route by winning and having either Adelaide or Fremantle lose. After taking down Adelaide and Fremantle in consecutive weeks, it’s folly to doubt the Demons now.
Fremantle and Collingwood have only one loss each this season – both to Brisbane, both at home. Ironically, the Lions’ only loss was also at home to the Adelaide Crows in Round 4.
Saturday: Gold Coast versus Geelong at Metricon
This is it: two perfect records, meeting in the final game of the season, for the sole privilege of being the only team to finish a full season without a single result out of place. Both teams are 0-8. Each team has lost seven of those eight by double digits, and possess similar scorelines against opponents.
GWS defeated one 18-8 and the other 16-9. They each played Richmond and then Carlton, with one team’s pair of game scores combining to 44-124 and the other’s totaling 53-128. Because this game is in Queensland (at the moment, anyway), we have the Suns as one goal less likely to lose, which would leave Geelong with the perfect 0-9 record, unmatched in AFLW history.
The last men’s AFL team to go winless for a season was Fitzroy in 1964: 0-18 with a percentage of 59.6 per cent. Geelong and Gold Coast are both currently under 35 per cent, a percentage unsurpassed for a season on the men’s side since St Kilda went 0-48 from 1897-99 with a 26.4 per cent scoring percentage over the first three years of the original VFL.
Sunday: Adelaide versus Collingwood at Norwood Oval
Once the Brisbane and Fremantle results are in, this game will be much easier to parse. But here’s how it looks ahead of time. A Collingwood win guarantees that they host a prelim final after a bye, while Adelaide plays a semi next weekend, at home unless Fremantle and Melbourne both win.
If Adelaide win by more than a point or two, they’ll pass the Pies in percentage as well as matching them at 7-2, which should give them the top-two finish they need to host the prelim final. See my comments on Fremantle for more details. Motivation for both clubs will be high, but they’ll both be playing finals footy, no matter what. We’ve got the Crows with a one-goal edge at home.
If Collingwood wind up in first place – very possible with a win, guaranteed if Brisbane also lose – it will continue a strange AFLW trend. In the first four seasons, no team has won either the minor premiership or the wooden spoon more than once. The spoon is guaranteed to go to another new team in 2021, so the pressure’s on Collingwood.
Sunday: GWS Giants versus Carlton
After North Melbourne play on Saturday, this game will mean either nothing or everything to the Carlton Blues. The Giants’ percentage is so paltry that even a score in the hundreds won’t get them past the 5-4 teams ahead of them, but Carlton have a realistic chance of being team number six if the Kangaroos lose to Fremantle. Here are some possible scenarios to follow.
If North lose 50-40, it means the Blues can win by 50-21, 56-26, 64-32, or 73-38 and pass them for sixth. If North lose 45-40, Carlton would have to win 50-16, or 60-23, or 66-27, or 75-34. If North lose 42-40, then Carlton just need to win 51-13, 58-18, 64-23, or 72-28.
You get the idea. All of those scores are doable – they just beat the Suns by 60 last Friday night. By the way, if North lost 50-40, the Giants could only top their percentage by winning this game 188-0 or so. That seems unlikely. Carlton are actually the only double-digit favourite on our board in Round 9, and even if North fails to provide them motivation, they should win this game handily anyway.
The Blues certainly benefited from the schedule: they faced only three of the top six teams, losing all three games, plus their loss to the 4-4 Bulldogs in Round 2. But they were 4-0 against teams below them, averaging better than a 60-30 scoreboard against them, which spurred this opportunity to make finals in an off year for the Blues.
Sunday: West Coast versus St Kilda at Mineral Resources Park
Our ELO-FF ratings say the game sits less than a point in the Eagles’ favour, so perhaps it’ll be a tremendously close and exciting game to finish the longest AFLW season in history.
But after upsetting the Bulldogs in Round 1, the Saints have just one more win for the season, a defeat of last-placed Geelong, while the Eagles were competitive with Richmond last week. The Eagles will win this one comfortably, probably boringly, and the home-and-away season ends anticlimactically, like this article.