There are only eight rounds remaining before the finals get underway, and for some clubs crunch time has arrived as they look to either…
What are the chances of there being a draw in Round 5?
According to all the pundits, not very high, as they rate only one game as likely to be very close: the Sunday matinee game at Docklands, where Essendon are considered a slightly better chance than Fremantle.
According to them, Collingwood, North Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney are all going to be flogged by Brisbane, Western Bulldogs and Melbourne respectively.
St Kilda and Geelong are expected to win comfortably, while the home-ground advantage is expected to give West Coast and Adelaide some chance and Port Adelaide are expected to do alright against Carlton, mainly due to the unavailability of Patrick Cripps and Mitch McGovern for Carlton, both with hamstring injuries.
Essendon and Fremantle have never had a draw with each other in the 38 times they have met so far. In fact, of the match-ups in Round 5, the only combinations that have drawn in the 125-year history of the VFL/AFL are as follows.
Hawthorn and Geelong have drawn once in 168 games, Carlton and Port Adelaide have drawn once in 35 games and North Melbourne and Western Bulldogs have drawn three times in 165 games.
History also tells us that there has been a draw on average every 116 games since the VFL commenced in 1897.
A look at the 2022 senior coaches tells us that they have coached an impressive 2295 games between them, but have only recorded a surprisingly low 16 draws between them or an average of one draw every 144 games.
When it is considered that two of the 18 coaches today have been involved in 50 per cent (eight) of these draws – Damien Hardwick (Richmond), the most senior current coach, and Greater Western Sydney’s Leon Cameron – it can be seen that they are doing their fair share.
Meanwhile, ten of the remaining 16 coaches have never been involved in coaching a drawn game, and this includes Luke Beveridge (Western Bulldogs) with 164 games coached. He is now the fifth most experienced VFL/AFL coach of all time to never have coached a draw.
The number of close matches this season – some won after the siren, some won by less than two goals – supports the theory that salary caps and the draft have made the competition more even than ever before.
And the blow-out in tied games is an apparition that will be righted during the season with at least one drawn game before the halfway mark of the season.
The game in Round 5 with the smallest differential in the win-loss ratio between the two teams is the Friday night clash between North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, where the Bulldogs currently have a four-game advantage.
In the St Kilda-Gold Coast game, the Saints will be hoping to extend their current record six-game winning streak against the Suns.
That winning streak includes their lowest ever score against the Gold Coast, and I don’t believe a repeat of that effort would be sufficient to keep the record going.
Among the traditional milestones to be achieved in Round 5 are the 200-game milestone by Lachie Neale and Jeremy Howe in the first game of the round at the Gabba on Thursday night.
Both players started their careers at other clubs and in Jeremy Howe’s case it will be an even split with his first 100 games being played for Melbourne, and his second 100 games for Collingwood.
Jack Gunston will reach his 200th game at Hawthorn, after 14 games at Adelaide in the first two seasons at the start of his career.