Six weeks to go.
There are six weeks left in the home and away season for 2016, and the finals permutations are insane.
There’s a total of six teams on either 12 or 11 wins, and North Melbourne has gone from 9-0 to a risk of missing the finals. In this post, I’ll go through the mathematics and possibilities, and try to argue that the Bulldogs could be in with a real chance and St Kilda could make the finals.
For a start, here’s the ladder:
It’s pretty clear that Hawthorn’s in the box seat to finish first on the ladder, being a game clear of both Adelaide and the Bulldogs.
However, nothing is certain, so just to be clear, we should look at the draws of the three clubs.
Hawthorn plays, in order, Richmond (in Melbourne), Carlton (Launceston), Melbourne (Melbourne), North Melbourne (Melbourne), West Coast (Perth) and Collingwood (Melbourne).
The only game in danger for them is the match against West Coast, and that’s only because of the venue. Hawthorn has a 50% record in Perth since 2012.
Adelaide, meanwhile, plays Geelong (in Geelong), Essendon (Adelaide), Brisbane (Adelaide), Fremantle (Perth), Port Adelaide (Adelaide), and West Coast (Adelaide). And the Bulldogs play St Kilda (Docklands), Geelong (Geelong), North Melbourne (Docklands), Collingwood (Docklands), Essendon (Docklands) and Fremantle (Perth).
Both of the Crows and Dogs should lose to Geelong (in Geelong), meaning that even if Hawthorn drop the game to West Coast, they will finish as minor premiers.
This, from current viewing, looks like a contest beteen Adelaide and the Bulldogs.
However, both have a game against Geelong, bringing the other teams at 11-5 into it.
In fact, after round 19, I have second through seventh all at 13-5.
In the end, though, Sydney will go 6-0 through the rest of the year, and a narrow percentage advantage will give them second.
However, both the Bulldogs and Adelaide are in with real premiership chances.
These teams all have five games that they should win, plus a game against Geelong in Geelong. If Adelaide beats the Cats and all other results remain the same, they finish second and have a home qualifying final against Sydney. If the Bulldogs win, it’s the same, and if they both win, they play each other in Adelaide.
Geelong’s form has been patchy as of late, meaning both are in with real chances at beating the Cats. Since 2012, Adelaide leads head to head, 4-3.
The loser of the hypothetical Adelaide-Bulldogs final would play the winner of Geelong and West Coast (most likely Geelong), and then taking on the Hawthorn-Sydney winner (Hawthorn, because it’s at the MCG). The winner, on the other hand, would get a week’s break and a preliminary final against one of Hawthorn, Sydney, GWS, or North.
At least one of these two teams will make a preliminary final, and from then on, noone can count them out.
Geelong has a difficult draw, but the fact they play Adelaide and the Bulldogs at Kardinia Park instead of Adelaide and Docklands gives them an advantage, and they finish third, just outside the top two on percentage. Adelaide is fourth, slightly below Geelong.
The Bulldogs are last of the teams on 17-5, with their poor percentage keeping them from the top 4. GWS and West Coast are sixth and seventh, respectively.
The last spot is, according to most media pundits, contested by North Melbourne and Port Adelaide. I’d like to take this opportunity to argue that St Kilda are in with a very realistic possiblity of the finals.
Currently St Kilda is 10th on the ladder, 8-8. However, the Saints have a record of 8 and 3 in Melbourne, which they don’t leave for the rest of the season.
And looking at their fixture. They should definitely beat Brisbane, and will consider themselves with good chances against Richmond and Carlton. That leaves them 11-11.
They play Sydney, a team which they will almost definitely lose to, but their other two games are against North Melbourne and the Bulldogs.
St Kilda has an unusually good record against the Bulldogs, 3-7 since 2012. In theory, that’s not very impressive, but you should never leave them out of it, especially after they were down by 55 pointsdown by 55 points early in the third quarter and still won last year.
If they don’t beat North or the Bulldogs, they end the season 11-11. That has them in 10th, percentage behind Port Adelaide, and 1 win (plus percentage) behind North.
However, if St Kilda do beat North, they finish the year 12-10…one better than Port and the Kangaroos.
This may seem unlikely, but if they do win, there’s nothing that can stop me from saying ‘I told you so’.
Well, Matter of Stats is probably the place to go for more detailed analysis, although I’ve got something else up my sleeve that you will probably get to see soon.
This is what my predictions say:
See you with the sequel post next week.