AFL 2017 – Round 1: New Season, New Questions

After an off season that was long enough for Bulldogs fans to stop celebrating winning the premiership (I’m still on that high), we’re heading in to the 121st season of the Australian Football League.1 As with any new season, we have a multitude of questions that we can ask about it, including the following five:

  • Is Hawthorn’s new look midfield, lead by Jaeger O’Meara and Mitchell “Legend Already” Lewis, going to rocket them right up into premiership contention again?
  • Will Essendon make a recovery from last season and go back into mid-table?
  • Is David Koch’s battle to turn the entirety of China into Port Adelaide fans going to work?
  • Will the Herald Sun shut up about GWS’s draft concessions?
  • Will I stop mocking the newly-Bulldoginated Travis Cloke when he sprays them from twenty metres out directly in front?

The answer to all five of those questions is no. But there will be other questions I say yes to! At some point this season. Maybe.

But feel free to get a taster for what I plan to be doing every Thursday throughout the season: a weekly article, much like the one you’re reading, coming out every Thursday at 4.30pm, containg 62-word reviews of the last week’s games, 62-word previews of the next week’s games, and predictions from a brand-new, untested, calculative algorithm!2

It’s up to you how you read it. You could:

  • Click the Twitter link sent out each week immediately after it’s published
  • Read the article commuting to the game
  • Print it out and read it with breakfast the next morning3


This is where I put in the little reviews of the previous week’s games, but I can’t do that because there weren’t any in the men’s competition! (There were women’s games, but I admit to not paying much attention to them – damn you India test series!)

(Also, if you’re wondering why 62, I have a hint for you: 1954 & 2016.)


The prediction at the end is not counted in the 62 words, and my predictions are here, not FADR’s. (More later.)

Carlton v Richmond

The traditional Thursday season opener means that one of these two teams usually has their hopes crushed for the year by half time. Carlton had just seven wins last year, which was pretty awful, but better than they expected. Richmond had eight, which was awful and worse than they expected. With Damien Hardwick’s head on the line for 2017, Richmond will fire. Richmond by 19.

Collingwood v W Bulldogs

While Collingwood fans laugh/cry at Jordan de Goey and argue that the 441 goals Travis Cloke kicked for them are worth nothing, the Bulldogs go into the season confused about whether to be pessimistic or not. Collingwood has given the Dogs quite a run in the last few games between them, but you would expect the champions to start 2017 well. W Bulldogs by 28.

St Kilda v Melbourne

These two clubs are both the two most likely to jump into the finals this year and the two who have the longest premiership drought.4 Possibly because of this, the Saints are trying to play up the rivalry, and this should be a pretty good game. However, Melbourne’s terrible record both against St Kilda and at Etihad Stadium will count against them. St Kilda by 8.

Sydney v Pt Adelaide

Sydney will be hurting after a tough loss against the Bulldogs in the Grand Final, given they were the best team throughout most of 2016, just not on the day. Port Adelaide is kind of hard to get a read on, considering how little I hear about them, but I’m expecting Sydney to come out of the gates for a big win. Sydney by 43.

Essendon v Hawthorn

Clearly, now that the twelve banned Essendon players have returned from the WADA suspension, they’ll have something to prove, and combined with the latest young talent, will blow Hawthorn out of the water…yeah, nah. Essendon will be better than they were last year, but this is still Hawthorn, and you don’t make six semi-finals in a row without being a great team. Hawthorn by 38.

Gold Coast v Brisbane

The AFL’s dumped us straight into a QClash, as part of a bumper triple-header that includes the AFLW Grand Final and…a NEAFL practice match. Both Brisbane and Gold Coast were terrible last year, with Brisbane conceding more than 90 points in every game last year. Gold Coast will hope to get a win so they can emulate their fellow expansion team GWS. Gold Coast by 12.

N Melbourne v West Coast

Both of these teams ended 2016 in disappointing elimination final performances. North Melbourne’s offloaded their veterans in what we would call rebuilding if a lower down team had done it, so plenty of question marks remain over how good a team with six players making their club debut can be. West Coast would fancy their chances here, although Melbourne’s far from Perth. West Coast by 23.

Adelaide v GWS Giants

Adelaide fell off the rails a little bit at season’s end – disappointing, as they were considered in with a decent flag chance right up until near the end. GWS has premiership favouritism for 2017, and for great reason based on their 2016 form. This game should be end-to-end, high scoring, thrilling football, but I’m going to give the Giants a slight edge. GWS Giants by 4.

Fremantle v Geelong

We’re still trying to figure out what on earth happened to Fremantle last year, and if they want to prove they’ve shaken it off, a game against their half rivals Geelong is the way to do it. The Cats played abysmally against Sydney in the preliminary final, but that was similar to Fremantle throughout all of 2016. Can’t see the Dockers winning. Geelong by 36.

FADR Predictions

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge /u/whimsical_panda, who made the Excel spreadsheet that I’ll be using throughout the season, one that you can download here.

Secondly, this is time for me to unveil my new predictive method for the AFL season. Will it stand the test of time, and be held to a similar status of the predictive methods of Tony Corke and the Footy Maths guy?

There’s only one way to find out, and that’s through predictions.

So, without further ado…presenting FADR, the Fredriksson Attack & Defence Ratings.

I’ve calculated an offensive and defensive rating for every team, which you can see, along with the entire spreadsheet, here. It’s not necessary to know them all, but the best ratings for offense and defense are Adelaide (1.29) and Sydney (1.30) respectively, and the worst are Essendon (0.73) and Brisbane (0.68).

To work out these ratings, which we’ll say were for the Bulldogs, I moved through this formula:5

  1. Work out the average points against per game for each team. (Lots of information here.)
  2. Count how many times each team played the Bulldogs. (Again, lots of information.)
  3. Add together the figures for every team the Bulldogs played, adding it twice for teams they played twice. (This came out as ~2278, which I’ve rounded to the nearest whole number.)
  4. Find the number of points the Bulldogs scored. (2241.)
  5. Divide one by the other. This gets us 0.98, which is the offensive rating for the Bulldogs.

With this, we were able to work out the result of whatever matchup we were playing, with scores! The score bit is actually pretty simple: just the average score for the measurement period, multiplied by one team’s offensive rating and divided by the other team’s defensive one.

Because it’s Round One, here you get to see the team v team match ups without going to the specialised page…

Team v Team

Note these ratings are transitive. This means that if Team A beats Team B and Team B beats Team C, then Team A will beat Team C. This is what rock-paper-scissors would be like if rock also lost to scissors – everyone would only use scissors and it would instantly stop being fun.

Also, here is a wonderfully heat mapped table of margins:


We’ve got the full spread here, from a draw (Carlton v Fremantle) to a 90 point thrashing (Adelaide v Brisbane).

And now,onto the predictions for this week:


Pretty uncontroversial here – the only game that goes against my judgement is St Kilda v Melbourne. Should be in for a few thrillers, and I don’t know why it says Monday.

Also, here are the predicted wins and finals series for 2017:


There’s fractional wins because a Twitter discussion with @lucasgarth led to the opinion that Sydney going 22-0, and Essendon 0-22, was clearly infeasible. That’s why I’ve got a leeway of four goals either way – if the predicted margin is 25+, it was worth 1 win; if it was 24, it was 0.98; etc., etc. Based on this, back Sydney for 2017.

And last words here: after Round 3, I’m casting off 2016’s results, so expect crazy values for a few weeks there.

1OK, OK, if you’re pedantic (or South Australian), it’s the 28th season of the Australian Football League, and the 121st season of the Formerly Victorian But Now Australian Football League.
2This one isn’t Skynet, which I believe happens in 2017 in some timeline.
3And, if it’s a round where there was a game on Thursday, you can pretend not to know the result/read the preview with smug superiority, futureman.
4This title, which currently belongs to Melbourne, I’m dubbing the Premiership Colander. Expect to see it in a blog post soon.
5This is how I worked out the offensive ratings; the defensive ones were pretty much the same, just inverted.


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