It's been that sort of year for the Eagles.
Who leads your club’s best and fairest? And what’s going on in the once-around standings? Let’s take a look via the Following Football stat collector, the spreadsheet of death!
First, the once-around ladder, where we examine what a 17-game AFL ladder would look like if every team played every opponent exactly once in the ‘purest’ form of fixture (a mythical adjective for reasons we won’t delve into at this moment).
With just two ‘unique pairing’ games remaining on the schedule in Round 23 (Brisbane–West Coast and Fremantle–St Kilda), most of the ladder is set:
1. Melbourne (15-2-0) – once-around ‘minor premiers’
2. Geelong (13-4-0) – finished in second place
3. Port Adelaide (12-5-0) – clinched third place
4. Sydney (11-6-0) – fourth by dint of their victory over Western Bulldogs
5. Western Bulldogs (11-6-0) – fifth by loss to Sydney
6. Brisbane (10-6-0) – sixth even if they win (lost to both fourth and fifth)
7. West Coast (8-8-0)
8. Fremantle (8-8-0)
9. Richmond (8-9-0)
10. Essendon (8-9-0)
11. St Kilda (7-9-0)
12. GWS Giants (7-9-1) – locked in 12th place
13. Hawthorn (7-10-0) – 13th place
14. Carlton (6-11-0) – 14th by virtue of defeating Suns
15. Gold Coast (6-11-0) – 15th, see above
16. Collingwood (5-12-0) – 16th due to win over Adelaide
17. Adelaide (5-12-0) – 17th, lost to Magpies
18. North Melbourne (3-13-1) – wooden spoon here, too – sorry, Roos.
We’ll go over these details more after the season ends and the middle five places are locked down (including the last two spots in the top eight), but on the once-around ladder, equal records are broken by head-to-head results, because what would a once-around ladder be otherwise?
Now, as for our projected best-and-fairest winners for each club: a caveat. Our scoring is necessarily different than each club’s system, since each club uses different methods and are far more subjective than ours are by nature, so no guarantees on our accuracy.
But these will also give you insight into the MVP recognition presented after Round 23 for the league from our Following Football organisation. We will provide an extensive breakdown on players after the season ends for all 18 teams, so this is just the sheer numbers at the top for each club:
1. Rory Laird (445.5 points) – clinched B&F with Walker out for Round 23
2. Taylor Walker (416.5 points) – both he and Laird are top 25 overall
3. Paul Seedsman (303 points) – third and second in last two games but too far back to win it
1. Jarryd Lyons (518.5 points) – 12th overall; could make top ten
2. Hugh McCluggage (465 points) – Lyons’ second place in Round 22 probably clinched it
3. Dayne Zorko (442.5 points) – first and fourth last two games gives him a shot at second
1. Sam Walsh (695.5 points) – second overall but needs a big game against GWS to win it all
2. Harry McKay (341 points) – out for closer
3. Jacob Weitering (326.5 points) – good Round 23 game would put him second great finish regardless
1. Jack Crisp (326.5 points) – low point total tells you how Magpie season has gone overall
2. Brodie Grundy (324 points) – toss-up for the B&F, though eyeball test gives Crisp the edge
3. Jordan de Goey (310.5 points) – could easily overtake Crisp and Grundy in Round 23 against Essendon
1. Darcy Parish (636 points) – sixth overall; third place in Round 22 voting gave him edge over Merrett
2. Zach Merrett (581 points) – ninth overall; could overtake teammate with best-on-ground against Collingwood
3. Jake Stringer (411.5 points) – third best-on-ground last week emphasises great season
1. David Mundy (488.5 points) – 14th overall: not bad for a 35-year-old too often in Fyfe’s shadow
2. Sean Darcy (427.5 points) – long shot but could overtake Mundy with best-on-ground against St Kilda
3. Andrew Brayshaw (363.5 points) – best of a pack of players in the next half-dozen or so
1. Tom Stewart (444.5 points) – out for Round 23, which leaves the door open for…
2. Cam Guthrie (430 points) – another midfield winner (yawn). But a deserving one if he does
3. Tom Hawkins (384 points) – not an outlandish bet to win it if he kicks a bag against Melbourne
1. Touk Miller (639.5 points) – perhaps the easiest prediction in the league; fifth overall
2. Ben King (201.5 points) – despite late fade, passed injured Ellis last game for second
3. Brandon Ellis (201 points) – Noah Anderson may pass both of them for second in Round 23
1. Josh Kelly (427 points) – 22nd overall on a team that spreads the wealth by design and injury
2. Toby Greene (412 points) – 27th overall: had decent lead until suspension for Round 22
3. Tim Taranto (358.5 points) – 32nd overall; if he follows his third and second on ground with a 1st…
1. Tom Mitchell (532.5 points) – 11th overall and deservedly the B&F leader on a young team
2. Jaegar O’Meara (243 points) – difficult season with injuries but hoping to hold on to second…
3. Chad Wingard (208.5 points) – with Wingard rushing up from behind in a purple patch
1. Clayton Oliver (682.5 points) – third overall and a race worth watching; margin eliminated by…
2. Christian Petracca (678.5 points) – three straight Brownlow vote performances and fourth overall
3. Max Gawn (502.5 points) – many deserving candidates behind him but the big man earned this
1. Ben Cunnington (337 points) – still leads despite being out since Round 19; could be passed in Round 23
2. Jy Simpkin (301.5 points) – 36 points would do it; that’s probably a top two or so on ground
3. Aaron Hall (290 points) – 47 points is most likely a BOG (and Simpkin not scoring Brownlow)
1. Ollie Wines (634 points) – we see sites arguing he’s Brownlow favourite: we have him seventh
2. Travis Boak (415.5 points) – 26th overall and another great season for the veteran
3. Karl Amon (377.5 points) – a breakout season for the budding star, who could snag second
1. Dustin Martin (342.5 points) – Tiger season in a nutshell: champ still leads team despite kidney
2. Jack Riewoldt (306 points) – veteran could snag another B&F with a big game against Hawthorn
3. Shai Bolton (296 points) – my personal preference for best Tiger this season
1. Jack Steele (620 points) – because of the nature of Brownlow voting, our non-Bont pick
2. Max King (228 points) – lack of a clear second gives the youngster a good shot
3. Brad Crouch (221.5 points) – quietly mounting a strong campaign for the Saints in 2021
1. Luke Parker (442.5 points) – with five top-four games in last six, pulled away from the pack
2. Callum Mills (424.5 points) – led until a couple of rounds ago
3. Isaac Heeney (314 points) – steady season for the budding star
1. Nic Naitanui (424 points) – this season has been so strong I’ve learnt how to spell his name!
2. Tim Kelly (285.5 points) – best of a weak crop of talented players this season
3. Andrew Gaff (269.5 points) – except for Rounds 7-8, hasn’t strung any great games together in 2021
1. Marcus Bontempelli (769.5 points) – the Brownlow honours BOG performances, and no one has been best on ground as often as the Bulldog superstar in 2021. Absolutely deserves it this season
2. Jack Macrae (581 points) – if there were a ‘best if not for’ award, it would be Macrae’s
3. Tom Libertore (350 points) – a strong season riding shotgun in the vaunted Bulldog midfield
Bontempelli leads our MVP tally by enough to clinch it by playing without injury in Round 23 in our books; using the colour-code methods we have designed to replicate Brownlow voting, we see Jack Steele as the one viable threat to his victory with a BOG performance against Fremantle (Bontempelli plays Port Adelaide).
Despite the Bulldogs’ slump over the last month, we believe the leader of a top-five club should outperform the leader of a non-finalist, all other things being equal (note: previous statement does not necessarily apply to Gary Ablett, Jr), and add the top-ten performance of Jack Macrae on top of his ‘handicap’ and it’s a wonder that the Bont has managed to stay atop the race until season’s end.
Jack Steele has ascended to superstar status and we’re praying he stays there for years to come.
But for those reasons listed, we’re pulling for a blowout finish for the Footscray Fenomenon, and his first Brownlow victory come awards night in a month or so.