The Expectation v Reality Ladder

‘They’ve got a bit of danger about them this year.’

‘I just love their assets.’

‘They’ve been doing all the right things in the off-season.’

‘There are some key pieces coming back from injury.’

‘Shiel and Merrett WILL finally provide something other than numbers.’ (Okay, this one is mostly me digging at Bombers fans).

We’ve heard it all before.

Predictions are not just echoes of past years, often their template is literally recycled. This one is NOT a dig. As a publisher by trade, I get it, but fans reading the same old ‘crystal ball’ articles could be forgiven for feeling a little tired of writers trotting out a top eight, a dark horse, a rising star, even a Norm Smith medallist (in March? I mean really?), only for the whole discussion to rightly fall by the wayside on the first bounce of a ball, with all turning their attention to what is happening in the real world.

But! That doesn’t mean this talk is for nothing. If anything, it’s for the best thing of all about footy talk – building a healthy victim complex.

I don’t mean this in too mopey a way, just that everyone loves to believe their team gets the worst of predictions, that their best players are ‘under-rated’ or ‘never get a sniff’.

Of course, we’re all guilty of this. I’m a tattoo-carrying Pies fan who tried to convince a mate that Taylor Adams was worth a shout for All-Australian last year. I considered the perfectly reasonable arguments posed to me about how Adams is clearly a great player, but that nobody who did get a shout could ever be reasonably dropped for him. I let the heat pass and the season end. Finally, I’ve even sobered up. Yet you might not be surprised to know that I’m even madder he never got a mention.

Because I didn’t think he should get a blazer, I thought he should get a mention!

Such is the struggle, and fun, of footy talk. Everyone loves to believe their club gets stiffed by the jocks and librarians that make up the footy media, but what if we were to think dangerously and suggest something radical?

I’m talking about the fact that some of us must be right. With football entering its third month, and some of this year’s predictions already ageing like sour milk (sorry Richmond), what better time than now to investigate who gets the rawest deal come footy talk time.

To figure out which of us in fact do get the shortest straw, I took to the Internet to collect the data.

Every year, pundits across the country flood our feeds with this information, so it didn’t take us much digging as you might think. To answer my burning question, I collated 111 different predictions since the 2018 season, all made before the bounce of a ball and all providing at least a top 8, though the majority provide a full ladder prediction.

Armed with this, I could then compare the media’s annual bleatings with cold, hard reality. My analysis revealed many trends, but let’s start with the average ladder for the last five years – just how off were the media as a whole? Who got stiffed the worst?

Let’s avoid some confusion here. I’m not presenting this as if the AFL were a continuous competition with accumulating results. Instead, the teams on this ladder will be sorted by the average position they finished on the ladder in the last five seasons.

Here’s how that looks.

Of all the teams in the competition, GWS are the most over-rated over the last five years. The most underrated were Geelong

Other risers were Brisbane, Port, and Freo, and other dumpster fires included Adelaide and West Coast.

If there’s anything else we can take from this, it’s surely that the media aren’t very good at tipping either – next time you hear your favourite talking-head spruiking a big rise, just consider that their record has been average at the best of times.

We all have pub opinions, but some of us get paid for them.


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