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Opinion

Individual voting and team ratings ahead of Round 5

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Roar Guru
14th April, 2021
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Missed y’all last week; there were problems on our end. We’ll get you caught up on the numbers for each club and their top players after four rounds of the 2021 AFL season right now.

At “Following Football”, we track 23 sources of voting and evaluations of AFL players each week: several “Teams of the Week”, Brownlow-style voting, best-on-grounds, fantasy scoring, statistical leaders and AFLCA voting. Our goal is to weight it all to give every position a fair chance at Best and Fairest. In the six years we’ve done this, we’ve matched the Brownlow winner five times (Max Gawn outpointed Tom Mitchell in 2018). We’ve also tracked the ELO-FF ratings for every team over those six years and continue to do so in 2021.

Using such a wide range of sources emphasizes a wide level of strengths: some only recognise one or two outstanding performances in a game; others pick out the three, five, or ten best players on the ground. Still others go deeper, halfway through the list, to acknowledge every player whose contribution mattered to the outcome, and finally we give a small amount of credit for simply doing the job required: it’s better to have played than not to have been there at all. In this way we’re doing more than just recognising a few masterpieces scattered among the garbage games; every level of performance is appreciated appropriately.

Every four weeks, we like to provide a full run-down of the individual standings in some form, and to keep these articles within a reasonable size range, we’ll put those individual standings in part two of this article.

First, here are those ELO ratings for each team, including their starting point four weeks ago and movement from last week (recall that all movement in our system is “zero-sum”: if the Swans went down 1.8 by not matching ratings expectations, the Bombers went up the same amount):

1. Western Bulldogs (orig. 5th at 58.0) – 69.1, up 0.3 this week
2. Port Adelaide (orig. 3rd at 64.5) – 63.6, up 1.2
3. Richmond (orig. 1st at 69.9) – 62.4, up 0.6
4. West Coast (orig. 6th at 55.6) – 58.4, down 4.1
5. Sydney (orig. 14th at 42.5) – 58.0, down 1.8
6. Melbourne (orig. 12th at 44.3) – 57.8, up 3.5
7. Brisbane (orig. 4th at 62.5) – 56.4, down 0.3
8. Geelong (orig. 2nd at 67.3) – 55.5, down 3.5
9. Carlton (orig. 10th at 48.3) – 51.8, up 1.4
10. Essendon (orig. 16th at 39.4) – 47.9, up 1.8
11. GWS Giants (orig. 9th at 50.2) – 47.5, up 5.8
12. St Kilda (orig. 7th at 54.6) – 46.4, up 4.1
13. Collingwood (orig. 8th at 50.5) – 46.1, down 5.8
14. Fremantle (orig. 11th at 47.9) – 45.1, up 0.9
15. Gold Coast (orig. 13th at 42.9) – 43.3, down 1.4
16. Hawthorn (orig. 15th at 41.6) – 42.6, down 0.9
17. Adelaide (orig. 17th at 32.6) – 40.0, up 2.2
18. North Melbourne (orig. 18th at 27.4) – 8.1, down 2.2. No team has fallen into single digits since Gold Coast broke out of negative numbers two years ago.

Notice which teams’ ratings are rising and which are falling – no particular surprises, but it’s important to note where they’ve been to determine where they’re going. We’ve split them into five categories:

Biggest risers (not coincidentally, the three unbeatens)
Melbourne (up 13.5 points, moved from 12th to 6th). 4-0 against the ratings predictions.
Sydney (up 17.3 points, moved from 14th to 5th before dropping slightly this week from 59.8). 3-1 against the ratings.
Western Bulldogs (up 11.1 points, moved from 5th to 1st). 3-1 against the ratings predictions.

Other risers
Adelaide (up 7.4 points, stays in 17th place). 3-1 against the ratings.
Carlton (up 3.5 points from 10th to 9th after a low of 45.6). 2-2 against the ratings.
Essendon (up 8.5 points from 16th to 10th after a low of 36.4). 2-2 against the ratings.
West Coast (up 2.8 points, moved from 6th to 4th). 3-1 against the ratings.

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Fairly neutral
Fremantle (fell 2.8 after a low of 44.2, fell from 11th to 14th). 2-2 against the ratings.
Hawthorn (up 1.0, moved from 15th to 16th). 2-1-1 against the ratings.
Port Adelaide (fell 0.9, moved from 3rd to 2nd). 2-2 against the ratings.

Marginal fallers
Brisbane (down 6.1 after a low of 55.6; fell from 4th to 7th). 1-3 against the ratings.
Collingwood (down 4.4 after a high of 51.9, fell from 8th to 13th). 2-2 against the ratings.
Gold Coast (up 0.4 after a low of 42.1 and a high of 46.8; net fall from 13th to 15th). 1-3 against the ratings.
Greater Western Sydney (down 2.7 after a low of 41.7; fell from 9th to 11th). 1-3 against the ratings.
Richmond (fell 7.5, moved from 1st to 3rd). 2-1-1 against the ratings.
St Kilda (down 8.2 after a high of 55.5 and a low of 42.3; net fall from 7th to 12th). 2-2 against the ratings.

Biggest fallers
Geelong (down 11.8, fell from 2nd to 8th). 0-4 against the ratings.
North Melbourne (down 19.3, remained in last place). 0-4 against the ratings.

The Kangas are no shocker; the Cats might be to some. But they’ve performed at least ten points worse than expectations in each of their four games so far this season. Oddsmakers also favoured them in all four games this season by a total of 56 points; they have two losses, a third that the officials admit should also have been a loss, and a game versus Hawthorn that they would have lost if it had gone much longer.

Could they turn it around and be competitive? Of course. Will they? We wait and see.

We can also consider the teams as a collection of players instead – here are the total “votes”, or points, for each team’s players after four rounds of action. You’ll see they’ve kindly grouped themselves already for our convenience.

1. Sydney Swans (4-0) – 895 points (last week: also 1st)
2. Western Bulldogs (4-0) – 890.5 points (last week: also 2nd)
3. Melbourne (4-0) – 847 points (last week: 4th)
4. Adelaide Crows (3-1) – 805 points (last week: 6th)
5. Port Adelaide (3-1) – 774.5 points (last week: also 5th)
6. West Coast Eagles (2-2) – 736.5 points (last week: 3rd)

(The leadership. These six teams will make finals, almost guaranteed. Besides their records, it’s clear they have the star power to keep firing throughout the season.)

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7. Carlton (2-2) – 701.5 points (last week: 9th)
8. Essendon (1-3) – 655.5 points (last week: 7th)
9. Collingwood (1-3) – 615 points (last week 8th)

(The bureaucracy. These three teams have outstanding players who merit votes, but it hasn’t been translating into wins, and they’re not demonstrating any likelihood of changing. Fingers crossed for these three.)

10. Richmond (2-2) – 612 points (last week: 13th)
11. Geelong Cats (2-2) – 608.5 points (last week: 10th)
12. GWS Giants (1-3) – 608 points (last week: 17th)
13. Gold Coast Suns (1-3) – 605.5 points (last week: 11th)
14. St Kilda (2-2) – 603 points (last week: 16th)
15. Fremantle (2-2) – 597 points (last week: also 15th)
16. Hawthorn (1-3) – 596.5 points (last week: 12th)

(The masses. You can see by their point totals that they’re interchangeable: there’s no reason Hawthorn couldn’t be tenth next week, as could any of the other teams in this block. Same for 16th place. If a team from here intends to make a charge to finals, players who have yet to rise up will have to do so soon – and probably multiple players on any one team.)

17. Brisbane Lions (1-3) – 518 points (last week: 14th)

(Should also be part of the masses, but for some reason dropped out of the “interchangeable” part last week. Can’t explain it; I assume they’ll pop back into that group next week.)

18. North Melbourne (0-4) – 405 points (last week: also 18th)

(The “essential workers” who earn no popularity from the rest of the culture but have to keep plugging away in order to earn that paycheck. We appreciate them in word but they languish behind in deed.)

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From these differing types of data, I’ll agree with the commentary floating around the footy world at the moment: those first six teams on this final list (the five teams with at least three wins plus West Coast) are on track for finals action; Richmond probably is too, as long as Dusty plays like he did in the first two games. That leaves one spot that everyone except North is fighting for.

Carlton and Essendon both show up strongly at the top of these lists; I’m not entirely sure that translates to finals likelihood, but it’s early – we’ll see what it looks like after a few more rounds.

Individually, it continues to be Tex Walker’s world; we’re all just living in it. We’ll share that data with you in part two of this article.

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