Welcome to the final power rankings of this season. This weeks topic: the national draft.
The big disadvantage of living halfway around the world from the sport I love and (more pertinently) the site I write for is the delay in communication between my editors and myself – literally a matter of day and night, in most cases.
That’s the reason y’all missed my Round 4 preview: by the time we got through discussing fixes and re-working the piece, it was too late for it to do you any good!
So let’s try this again, shall we?
Thursday night: St Kilda vs Richmond at Marvel Stadium
The Saints scare me.
Twice, they’ve been predicted to win – in rounds two and three – and were beaten decisively by teams well below them on the 2020 ladder. Twice, they’ve been predicted to lose – in Round 1, when we thought GWS was good, and Round 4, when we knew West Coast was – and won.
I’ve only lost 11 times in 36 wagers so far, and four of those were the four Saints games.
Tiger Army, you should win this game. But then, the Eagles should have won last week, too. I will simply say that the ELO-Following Football ratings indicate Richmond by 16, and that’s a perfectly logical number, and please don’t make me bet on the reverse-jinx Saints again…
Friday night: West Coast vs Collingwood at Optus Stadium
Both teams are fighting for their positional lives, coming off shock losses Saturday that dropped each of them perilously close to irrelevance in April. The Eagles did not expect to be 2-2, and the Pies didn’t want to be 1-3 entering this game.
Yet one of these legitimately good teams will be one step closer to obscurity. We rate the Eagles as 18-point favourites at home, which feels about right and matches the current numbers on the big board.
Saturday afternoon: AFLW grand final – Adelaide vs Brisbane at Adelaide Oval
Adelaide defeated Melbourne, yes, but the Demons put up the best fight of any of Adelaide’s four finals’ opponents at the Oval (the prior average score for the rainbow coalition was 68-13).
Incredibly, Brisbane had never won a final before winning last week against Collingwood, losing last year’s semi to Carlton and the first two grand finals to the Crows and Bulldogs.
I’ll make this simple for you: nobody beats the AFLW Crows at the Oval.
Nobody beats the 2017 and 2019 champs in an odd-year final.
And nobody puts Erin Phillips in a box, unless that box is the goal square for her to kick yet another goal.
My first choice is for her to feel capable of and willing to continue in 2022; my second choice would be for her to go out as she has spent her entire athletic career: a champion, even though I’m a lifelong Brisbane fan.
Adelaide by two goals. (My ratings say 11 points. Close enough.)
Saturday twilight: Western Bulldogs vs Gold Coast Suns at Marvel Stadium
The Suns are playing without a real ruckman, which the Bulldogs know something about. The Doggies are quite probably the class of the league right now, which the Suns know something about, having faced many good teams in their history.
Gold Coast is about as likely to win this game as they are to get a holding the ball call this season after a tackle. (Aside: every season seems to have one rule that we all have questions about: remember the intentional out-of-bounds a couple of years back?)
Bulldogs by 30 (says the author and the ELO-FF numbers). And Matt Rowell, please hurry back.
Saturday twilight: Battle of the Bridge – Sydney vs GWS Giants at the SCG
Here is my deep position-by-position examination of the match-ups in this classic: centre half forward Toby Greene and centre half back Tom McCartin.
Every other match-up favours the Swans this weekend. It’s that drastic with the injuries in the west and the emergences of the young cricket-grounders.
Toby single-handedly got the charcoal and orange across the line against a poorly performing Maggies outfit Saturday night, but this isn’t Collingwood.
The ELO-FF numbers say Swans by 14.5 points; I say it should be double that. Take the points.
Saturday evening: Carlton vs Port Adelaide at the MCG
Port got a pivotal win against Richmond last week to keep their record above sea level, but they were deeply engaged against the Eagles at Optus in their Round 3 loss and but for that would be 4-0.
Meanwhile, Carlton crept across the line against a team without a ruckman at home on Saturday night, adding that to a win over a mediocre Dockers team the week before to make the claim that at 2-2 they’re better than Collingwood and Brisbane.
Gotta figure the Power’s with Port, and Carlton will be Blue at game’s end.
Port Adelaide by nine? Sorry, ELO-FF ratings, but that seems far too conservative.
Saturday evening: Brisbane vs Essendon at the Gabba
Brisbane’s loss to Sydney looks completely different in hindsight, and their loss to Geelong shouldn’t have been one at all. But while the Bulldogs may very well be the best in the AFL in early 2021, that loss puts the Lions at 1-3 in a season they were thought to be a certain top-four.
The Dons’ three losses are to the Swans (fair enough), Port (also a great team), and… Hawthorn? Their win over St Kilda probably doesn’t match up with Brisbane’s defeat of Collingwood, either.
Let’s face it: Brisbane’s 1-3 looks far better than Essendon’s 1-3 does. I’d take the Queenslanders in a heartbeat.
But the last line I saw said the Lions were favoured by 26.5! That’s a ton of points for a 16th-placed team over anyone not named North Melbourne. I’m hedging against that, taking the Lions by ‘over 15’ just to be safer (my ratings say 11’s a better margin).
Sunday afternoon: Adelaide vs Fremantle at Adelaide Oval
Given their performances this season, that should read ‘Fremantle’ (in eight-point font) vs ‘Adelaide’ (in 16-point), “featuring Tex Walker” (in 72-point, War-Is-Over type).
The Crows are more than just Walker, of course – Rory Laird and Rory Sloane have been superlative, as usual, with help across the ground.
The Dockers and Crows were both expected to be bottom-six clubs, and while Freo seems to be leaning into that role, Adelaide is unfamiliar with being the wooden spoon and doesn’t know that they’re supposed to remain bad for another season or two.
They won’t make finals this season, mind you, but they’ll finish well ahead of Fremantle.
Adelaide by 6.5 is too close for my taste – that’s only one Walker goal. Take the points.
Sunday afternoon: Hawthorn vs Melbourne at the MCG
Two weeks ago, I suggested that the Demons-Giants point spread was too small because Melbourne had won every game by more than that already.
Because the number here’s already passed 20, that isn’t strictly true here, but the argument still holds: if they beat Geelong by 25, why wouldn’t they beat the Hawks by at least that?
Take Melbourne plus the 20-ish.
Sunday twilight: Geelong vs North Melbourne at GMHBA
Yes, Geelong was shockingly upset by wooden spoon holders Adelaide in Round 1. Yes, they only won against Brisbane by an official’s error. Yes, they could only squeak by paltry Hawthorn by less than a goal in Round 3. Yes, Melbourne toyed with them last Sunday before putting them away with ease.
But this is North they’re playing. Geelong could win by 90 if they choose to.
The problem occurs when you wager on a ridiculously high margin that it may not be in the team’s best interest to pursue.
Just as you should never bet on a one-goal margin in hockey (teams willingly surrender open-goal scores and lose by two or three in the hopes of tying a one-goal game late with an extra attacker), there’s a point where most teams call off the dogs against a beaten foe.
Fifty points (which this point spread passed almost immediately upon opening) is that number for me.
Sure, they might win by that or much more, but if they choose not to extend beyond, say, 40-45 out of respect, or of retaliation down the line, or just to work on defensive schemes or see young players in game action, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have won by 90.
Either bet a lower-return number like Geelong by 30 or more or leave the game alone.
You will have to trust what I said my predictions were – luckily for you, it’ll be easy to tell I’m not making these up. I picked Sydney by 28; they won by three. ELO-FF ratings told me Port by six; nevertheless, I chose Richmond. Whoops. Guarantee wins by West Coast and Collingwood? Not so fast.
I did get some things right – the Dogs covered, we went three-for-three on Sunday, and while we saw Carlton and Gold Coast as a draw, they were at least within spitt’n distance at the end.
But it was still the first week we lost (hypothetical) money, falling $2.30 short of earning back the imaginary $18 we wagered ($2 each on nine games). Undaunted, we will take our net $8.88 profit for the season and soldier on with nine more mythical wagers for Round 5.
Here are the ELO-Following Football lines for the Round 5 games as currently scheduled (alongside my own opinions). I fear a lack of close games:
•Richmond by 16 over the Saints. (Yes.)
•West Coast by 18 over Collingwood. (Yes,)
•Bulldogs by 30 over the Suns. (Yes.)
•Sydney by 14.5 over the Giants. (Maybe a bit low.)
•Power by nine over Carlton. (Probably a hair low.)
•Brisbane by 11 over Essendon. (Definitely too low.)
•Adelaide by one over Fremantle. (Even more certainly too low.)
•Melbourne by 14 over Hawthorn. (I’d say it’s 20-25 points or so.)
•Geelong by 50.5 over the Kangaroos. (Once you pass 40, who really knows?)
We’ve chosen 25 winners out of 36 so far this season (so have the ELO-FF ratings, but not the same 25), and we’re $8.88 up on our hypothetical $72 wagered so far.
Remember, if you use real money for your bets, you risk real losses: somehow, the moment I get overconfident and start down that road, every game turns against my picks, just like magic. I don’t recommend it.