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The Roar



The stat that should worry Bulldogs fans heading into 2022

NicholasQ new author
Roar Rookie
27th September, 2021
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NicholasQ new author
Roar Rookie
27th September, 2021
1137 Reads

As the 2021 AFL season finished up last Saturday, many in the AFL world were basking in the red and blue light of Melbourne’s victory and the future dynasty that might ensue for the next five years.

During this time of the grand final aftermath, we often overlook the runners up – in this case the Western Bulldogs, who for two and a half quarters were well in the game. And if not for a white-hot Melbourne side, we might have seen Chris Grant pass the premiership cup to Luke Beveridge and Marcus Bontempelli.

For now, Western Bulldogs fans look towards 2022 with great aspirations that they can use this heartbreaking loss to motivate themselves to premiership glory.

Unfortunately, the last 30 years have shown us a sinister fall for the runners up, so Bulldogs fans, you might want to look away.

Marcus Bontempelli celebrates a goal.

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The last 30 years have seen incredibly close grand finals with 2002, 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2018 all springing to the mind of footy fans.

We have also had grand finals blowouts with the margins being bigger than Ben-Hur with 1994, 2000, 2003, 2010 (replay), 2019 and the infamous 2007 grand final between Geelong and Port Adelaide springing into mind and giving PTSD for those fans on the receiving end.

While the teams who play in them and the margins in these games couldn’t be more different, the results of the season after for these runners up all have a striking similarity.

Runners up don’t tend to do well the season after making in some cases a long-awaited grand final appearance.


While this trend has become more common in time with Adelaide and GWS being prime examples of this statistic, there are far more examples of these statistics being right, which spells trouble for the Bulldogs.

Runners ups in grand finals since 1990 on average lose 3.26 positions regardless of whether the game is close or a blowout, which using the Bulldogs’ ladder position this year (fifth) would place them eighth on the ladder in 2022.

Tim English of the Bulldogs and Max Gawn of the Demons compete for the bal;

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

However, this stat gets even worse for Bulldogs fans. Teams who lose by 50-plus points or more in a grand final – as the Dogs did on Saturday – on average lose 5.11 positions, which using this stat would place the Bulldogs tenth on the ladder, potentially making the Dogs the third team in five years to miss out on finals after making the grand final the year before.

While the Bulldogs will still play in September next year, this still should be deeply concerning for supporters of the red, white and blue.

We have seen these sorts of losses set back clubs for years with Port Adelaide falling into mediocrity until Ken Hinkley’s resurgence in 2014 and its rejuvenation last year. Adelaide are now in the middle of a rebuild due to their response to their loss, which saw the club fall on the ladder. And Greater Western Sydney surprisingly fell out of the finals last year only to rebound this year.

All these fans can attest to these results hurting the club in recent years.


While there have been examples of teams able to redeem their grand final losses with West Coast in 1992 and 2006, North Melbourne in 1999, Geelong in 2009 and Hawthorn in 2013 all came back to redeem themselves the year after losing the year prior proving to be the exceptions to the rule.

But that’s the thing, they are exceptions. While there are examples of this, for every example of this, there are teams that prove this stat to be true.

For every West Coast in 2005 and 2006, there is a Collingwood of 2002 and 2003. For every Geelong in 2008 and 2009, there is a St Kilda of 2009 and 2010. For every Hawthorn in 2012 and 2013, there is a Geelong of 1994 and 1995 and the list goes on.

So, to you Bulldogs fans, I’ll warn you with this: not every grand finalist can redeem their mistakes. So enjoy your team’s grand final appearance regardless of the result as there might be a fair few drinks in between.

Year GF loser GF margin GF year ladder position Post-GF year ladder position Ladder position change
1990 Essendon 48 points First Sixth (lost elimination final) -5
1991 West Coast 53 points First Fourth (won grand final) -3
1992 Geelong 28 points First Seventh (missed finals) -6
1993 Carlton 44 points Second Second (lost semi-final) 0
1994 Geelong 80 points Fourth Second (lost grand final) +2
1995 Geelong 61 points Second Seventh (lost grand final) -5
1996 Sydney 43 points First Sixth (lost qualifying final) -5
1997 St Kilda 31 points First Sixth (lost semi-final) -5
1998 North Melbourne 35 points First Second (won grand final) -1
1999 Carlton 35 points Sixth Second (lost preliminary final) +4
2000 Melbourne 60 points Third 11th (missed finals) -8
2001 Essendon 26 points First Fifth (lost semi-final) -4
2002 Collingwood Nine points Fourth Second (lost grand final) +2
2003 Collingwood 50 points Second 13th (missed finals) -11
2004 Brisbane 40 points Second 11th (missed finals) -9
2005 West Coast Four points Second First (won grand final) +1
2006 Sydney One point Fourth Seventh (lost elimination final) -3
2007 Port Adelaide 119 points Second 13th (missed finals) -11
2008 Geelong 26 points First Second (won grand final) -1
2009 St Kilda 12 points First Third (lost grand final) -2
2010 (replay) St Kilda 56 points Third Sixth (lost elimination final) -3
2011 Collingwood 38 points First Fourth (lost preliminary final) -3
2012 Hawthorn Ten points First First (won grand final) 0
2013 Fremantle 15 points Third Fourth (lost semi-final) -1
2014 Sydney 63 points First Fourth (lost semi-final) -3
2015 West Coast 46 points Second Sixth (lost elimination final) -4
2016 Sydney 22 points First Sixth (lost semi-final) -5
2017 Adelaide 48 points First 12th (missed finals) -11
2018 Collingwood Five points Third Fourth (lost preliminary final) -1
2019 GWS 89 points Sixth Tenth (missed finals) -4
2020 Geelong 31 points Fourth Third (lost preliminary final) +1

In 1994, the finals systems was expanded to eight teams, with the expansion to 16 teams in the league.