Going into the last week of the women’s season before the first AFLW multi-game finals series, seven teams are still eligible for a top-two position in their conference ahead of Round 7 this weekend.
In Conference B (which I think of as the relegation division), Geelong and Carlton are both 3-3. Simply put, if either or both teams win, they’re in, regardless of margin or percentage.
If either team loses, Brisbane can win and tie them at 3-4, which might get the Lions in depending on percentage. They’d have to make up approximately 70 points on Carlton, which might be a tough task, but Geelong is only about 20 or so points ahead right now – because the Cats are such a defensive team, it’s harder to compare their apples to Brisbane’s or Carlton’s oranges. Any Geelong loss puts Brisbane in the driver’s seat.
As for Conference A (the ‘premier’ division, a title I’ll have to retrospectively erase if the champion comes from conference B), the situation’s as follows.
Three teams are 5-1. Fremantle and the Kangaroos play each other, and the winner is in the finals. The loser is out unless they play a very low-scoring game and lose by one point (and I have a hard time imagining these teams playing a 9-8 slugfest), while the Crows and Demons reach 100 points each before the Dees win.
If Adelaide win, they’re in the finals and that’s that. But if the Crows lose to Melbourne, there’ll be three teams at 5-2: Adelaide, Melbourne, and the loser of the game in Western Australia. Melbourne go into the finals if they beat the Crows by more than 25 points or so, otherwise Adelaide still makes the post-season based on a higher percentage, barring the ludicrous circumstances described above.
Here are the ratings for all ten teams in the AFLW in the ELO-Following Football rating system, which we use to predict each game.
Greater Western Sydney (37.3) vs Geelong (42.2)
UNSW Canberra Oval, Friday at 7:15 AEDT
ELO is a zero-sum system, so when a team wins by eight points more than predicted, we adjust their rating i[ one point and their opponent’s rating down one point. It’s the simplest rating system out there, and yet amazingly it’s as accurate as all the complex systems you might read about on the internet, probably because in the end the only thing that really determines who wins games and who loses them is how many points each team scores.
Admittedly, we do make allowances for ‘garbage-time’ goals and other deceptive situations that change the scoring outcome of a game on occasion. But those are rare situations.
So Geelong’s rating is 4.9 points better than that of the Giants, but the Giants get a four-point bonus for being the home team in this game. Therefore Geelong is favoured here by only nine-tenths of a point in this rating system. I’m betting Geelong wins by more than that, if only because it means so much more to them. They won’t want to lose and have to hold their breath waiting for Sunday’s results, especially Brisbane’s. At the time of writing I haven’t seen the professionals’ point spreads to compare to our forecasts.
Melbourne (61.2) vs Adelaide (66.8)
Casey Fields, Saturday at 4:45pm AEDT
Teegan Cunningham showed the kind of on-field heroism that reminded me of a Chad Wingard mark and goal for Port a couple of years ago – although athletically she resembles Mason Cox more than Wingard. (My apologies to the police, fire, military and paramedic men and women – the actual heroes – for my flippant use of the word ‘heroism’.)
Congratulations to the Bulldogs for proving me wrong having predicting two routs in Marvel Stadium on Saturday, but even more so to the Demons for finding a way to win even when they could only kick 5.9 indoors.
Against the Crows, though, it’s possibly a bridge too far. Even if they win, they’ll have to win by enough to push their percentage above Adelaide’s, so they’ll have to play a wide-open game more akin to Adelaide’s liking. Lauren Pearce will need to be dominant in the ruck, and the vaunted Melbourne midfield will have to keep the ball out of their defensive 50.
If the Crows continue to allow opposition players behind their back line in transition, as they did Sunday, Melbourne could very well do it. I’m betting on Adelaide, though. ELO-FF casts them as a 1.6-point favourite, and I’m thinking it’ll be more than that.
Fremantle (57.9) vs North Melbourne (60.6)
Fremantle Oval, Saturday at 4:10pm AWST
Because of the travel distance involved, the home-team bonus is eight points when a team is either coming from or going to WA. Thus the Dockers end up being a 5.3-point favourite to the Kangaroos.
North Melbourne, however, is the most talented team in the league, possibly excepting Adelaide. My hunch is that if push comes to shove in what’s essentially a semi-final regardless of the prior game’s outcome, the superior skill levels in the blue and white stripes will score the last and winning goal.
On a related note, there have been eight games (five this season) where the combined point totals reached 100. The highest in 2019 was back in Round 1 when Fremantle beat Melbourne 59-55. The league record is 116 points, scored in Round 7 of 2017 by Adelaide (76) and Collingwood (40). This is the kind of game where that record could very likely fall. They’ll at the least probably produce the ninth century mark in the three years of AFLW competition. (The R6 scoring average was 37.9 per team per game.)
Collingwood (40.1) vs Brisbane (40.6)
Victoria Park, Sunday at 2:05pm AEDT
Will the Magpies fold up the tent with nothing to play for? I highly doubt it. They played well enough against the Kangaroos last weekend to prove they haven’t put a stopper on the elixir of effort. And the motivation to avoid the first 0-7 season in the short history of AFLW will be strong. (Sad fact – they’ve already guaranteed themselves the worst record in league history with an unprecedented sixth loss last week.)
Think back to what Collingwood did in Round 7 last year, when despite being out of contention in the last game and trailing by double digits at half-time, they came back to practically shut out the Crows and single-handedly prevent them from reaching the grand final.
But the motivation for Brisbane to make finals for a third successive season may surpass that. Remember, they won’t know Carlton’s outcome when they take the field. Plus Brisbane’s simply a better team. We’ll take the Lions to win, even as a 5.5 ELO-FF underdog.
Bulldogs (47.9) vs Carlton (45.4)
VU Whitten Oval, Sunday at 4:50pm AEDT
Like the Magpies, Footscray proved they were still able and willing last week by driving Melbourne to the brink until Cunningham’s game-winning goal. What they didn’t have, however, was the ability to cash in on an identical opportunity with 90 seconds to go – and a better one for Monique Conti with a free kick on the 50 in the last minute.
Unlike Collingwood, they don’t have any ‘negative motivation’ to fight for in the last game of the season – and don’t discount that tiny detail. Playing the very last game of the league home-and-away season when you’re not eligible for finals (and your opponent is) and there is literally nothing but pride to play for is a depressing feeling.
Also, when the Blues have played teams that run well, they’ve lost, and when they’ve played teams that sit back and play more defensively, like Collingwood, they win. Give Carlton the emotional edge, the schematic edge and the win despite Collingwood’s 6.5-point ELO-FF edge.
Last week: 5-0 for me; 4-1 for ELO-FF after I contradicted the system’s pick of Geelong by one.
Season overall: 21-8-1 (the ELO-FF is 19-11).
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By the way, we also tracked an even simpler prediction formula this year, an adaptation of one my uncle used to believe in: “If one team’s percentage is at least ten points better than the other, bet on them. If neither team has that advantage, bet the home team”. Call it the ‘percentage-HA’ system. His version, by the way, only used win-loss records and would be 18-12 this season.
So far, after six rounds of the women’s season, this simple method is an astounding 20-10, better than most of the professional and avocational systems out there on the internet. Bookmakers are 19-11; no-one else I’m tracking is even that good.
This week, the ‘percentage-HA’ method prefers the Cats, Crows, Dockers (who trail North Melbourne by ‘only’ 9.9 per cent), Magpies (within 8.7 per cent of Brisbane) and the Blues. I’m thankful I’m faring slightly better than this instinctive method – it’d be embarrassing to pour all this energy into a prediction system that wasn’t as good as ‘pick the team with the better record’!
Read more: theroar.com.au