After the excitement and drama of the final round, it’s all down to nine games to decide the 2022 AFL premiership.
But there’s a lot we can learn from the final story to figure out what’s going to happen this September — and most of it won’t be good for the favorite.
We will run the numbers on the last series of games.
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The problem at the beginning
Chris Scott’s comments often get a surprisingly big response from opposition fans, and his comments about finishing the ladder were no different.
He told 3AW’s Sports Day last week: “I have one vision and I’ve had it in football for my whole career.
“It’s just that the AFL doesn’t do as good a job as other competitions in recognizing minor premiers.”
As you can tell from the full context, that’s not a complaint from Scott, just a statement of fact. In many sports, finishing in the standings will see a team win multiple awards – in some, it means winning the comp. You get a trophy that nobody in the AFL knows the name of (sorry Dr. William C. McClelland).
But perhaps the biggest problem with finishing first is that it doesn’t seem to help you in the final race. If anything, it hurts.
Last year, Melbourne, one of the last eight minor premiers, won the grand final.
We believe that’s down in part to the structure of the playoffs series, which is designed to reward the dominant team in week one alone.
The 1st vs 4th qualifier usually gets a higher ranked opponent in the prelims than the 2nd vs 3rd qualifier – the easiest scenario is 1st vs 3rd and 2nd vs 4th in the prelims.
That’s why the winner of the 1st and 4th qualifier has lost five of the last seven years in the home preliminary final, and the winner of the 2nd and 3rd qualifier is 4-3 at home during that time.
The minor premiers got tougher precedent in 2018, when Richmond (1st) ran into Collingwood (3rd) and West Coast (2nd) demolished Melbourne (5th) as Mason Cox ran.
Grand Finals (final H&A ladder position, last 10 seasons)
2021: 1st (Melbourne) 5th (Western Bulldogs)
2020: 3rd (Richmond) 4th (Geelong)
2019: 3rd (Richmond) 6th (GSS)
2018: 2nd (West Coast) 3rd (Collingwood)
2017: 3rd (Richmond) 1st (Adelaide)
2016: 7th (Western Bulldogs) 1st (Sydney)
2015: 3rd (Hawthorn) 2nd (West Coast)
2014: 2nd (Hawthorn) 1st (Sydney)
2013: 1st (Hawthorn) 3rd (Fremantle)
2012: 3rd (Sydney) 1st (Hawthorne)
This is not the only way we can summarize the advantages of winning 2nd vs 3rd QF.
Eight of the last 11 premiers have finished 2nd or 3rd in the rankings and six of those premiers have won their qualifying finals: Richmond 2019, West Coast 2018, Richmond 2017, Hawthorn 2014, Sydney 2012 and Geelong 2011.
Maybe in general, there will always be three serious flag contenders? Because the fourth He hasn’t won a flag since Adelaide in 1997 and that was in a different finals format.
Premier H&A ladder position (since 2000 when the current finals format was introduced)
1st: 7 (Melbourne 2021, Hawthorn 2013, Collingwood 2010, Geelong 2007, West Coast 2006, Port Adelaide 2004, Essendon 2000)
2nd: 7 (West Coast 2018, Hawthorn 2014, Geelong 2011, Geelong 2009, Hawthorn 2008, Brisbane 2002, Brisbane 2001)
3rd: 7 (Richmond 2020, Richmond 2019, Richmond 2017, Hawthorn 2015, Sydney 2012, Sydney 2005, Brisbane 2003)
7th: 1 (Western Bulldogs 2016)
How far ahead of the pack are the cats?
A 13-game winning streak meant Geelong came into the finals series reasonably well despite nine of those wins coming under ten (the others: Richmond by three points, Melbourne by 28, and the Bulldogs twice by 13 and 28).
They finished two games above the relegation zone and had the edge of the Premier League. But separating the pitch doesn’t always equate to premiership glory.
Thanks to Reddit user boats-n-lows, who pulled most of the numbers before we got going, we can say that eight teams in the AFL era have finished two or more wins ahead of second place.
Perhaps surprisingly, only three of them won the flag, and the last three failed to do so – instead seeing runners-up take the premiership.
The only team to clear two games in the 18-team era was 2018’s Richmond, arguably the best version of that entire dynasty… unable to stop a certain American in the standings.
Two+ games clear, how did it go?
West Coast (1991) – Won 19 by 16 Hawthorn Second – Lost Grand Final to Hawthorn (2nd) Premier
Carlton (1995). – 20 Won at Geelong Second in 16 – Won at Geelong (2nd) Grand Final.
Essendon (2000) – 21 won at Carlton second in 16 – Grand Final won at Melbourne (3rd)
Port Adelaide (2003) – 18 won by Collingwood Seconds by 15 – Lost in preliminary final against Brisbane (3rd) Premiers
Geelong (2007) – 18 won at Port Adelaide second in 15 – won at Port Adelaide (2nd) Grand Final.
Geelong (2008) – Won 21 by 17 Hawthorn Second – Lost Grand Final to Hawthorn (2nd) Premier
St Kilda (2009) – Won by 20 Geelong Seconds by 18 – Grand Final lost to Geelong (2nd) Premiers
Richmond (2018) – 18 WON WEST COAST SECOND 16 WON – LOST WEST COAST (2ND) PREMIER FIRST FINAL
Geelong (2022) – 18 in Melbourne second by 16 – ???
Total: 3 premierships, 3 runners-up, 2 first final losses
It all bodes well for Melbourne’s 2nd tier, doesn’t it?