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Why AFL form is so unpredictable

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Peter Staines new author
Roar Rookie
8th April, 2021

I have been talking about AFL form for longer than I can care to remember – since about the mid-1990s at least – and it’s always the same every year.

Form between sides will always fail and upsets guaranteed to happen.

Form can fail because sides get a harder draw than their immediate opponents.

Sides can and will defeat roughies, which will inevitably suggest that any side can win based on mainly two things:

  • that the favourite is struggling to win or is involved in four-goal games either way over a number of weeks; or
  • that the roughie is a lot better than the previous year and can win multiple games in a row that can last anything from six to 12 weeks.

Every year after three or four games there will be sides that get belted and bounce back the following week to win against the odds, and there will also be sides that will stay down for the count.

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Sides that don’t get back up usually do not participate in the finals, and it is not unusual for a side like the Saints at the moment to be overrated simply because they made the eight the previous season.

The difference between making the eight and missing the finals is really only winning slightly more than 50 per cent of your matches – in other words, there’s barely any difference, really.

Back in the VFL days – when we had only 12 teams and a top five, with the double chance going to the top three sides only – it was clear and evident that the premiership winner had to be either the best Victorian side or a side that had some recent history over that best Victorian side.

As the AFL started in the early 1990s the best interstate side was an immediate threat to winning the flag as well.

The last side that started off like the Swans did – with total points scored breaking 180 constantly – were the Crows of 2017, and they made the grand final.

The Swans are $6.00 to make the grand final of 2021. Last week, before Round 3’s results, the Swans were around $2.70 to make the eight. Now they’ve shortened to $1.66. They are $2.50 to finish in the top four.


I’m not a futures punter, as I cannot see the value in it unless you can name another future bet alongside it to make it value.

For Round 4 history suggests on scoring shots between sides based over the past four rounds that the best chance for a roughie is Gold Coast to defeat Carlton, Melbourne to defeat Geelong or Hawthorn to defeat Fremantle.

The only other teams with a chance of winning based on scoring shots are St Kilda over West Coast and Greater Western Sydney over Collingwood.

The Saints look like a rabble and the Giants have a host of their better players missing, so I’ll leave them alone.

I’ll go for the Demons based on assumption that it took all of last year for the Cats to look like the best side. At the moment they look like they’re still playing this useless short game style, which won’t win them a flag.