There's been a lot of talk in footy circles around the idea that the top-8 may already be set. That is, no team currently outside the 8 will make up the ground required1 to play finals footy by the time September rolls around.
Looking at the ladder, this claim looks a bit silly. Melbourne and Port in 9th and 10th sit on the same number of wins as West Coast and Adelaide in 7th and 8th. However, the FFSS ratings of each team manages to pick up on something deeper, something that other experienced footy fans are also picking up on.
FFSS ratings consider not only the result of each match (like the competition ladder does) but also the quality of opponents in each of those matches, the final margin of each and also the quality of shots that a team has been able to create over the four quarters.2
On top of this, FFSS ratings also weight more recent results more highly to help identify improving (and faltering) teams as quickly as possible.
Current FFSS Ratings
The current top-8 on the ladder are clear out in front as the top-8 teams in the FFSS rankings. There is a difference of about 50 FFSS pts between the 1st rated Cats and the 8th rated Giants. For reference this means that if the two teams went head to head at a neutral venue, we would expect Geelong to win about 57% of the time (or roughly 11 out of 20 games if played back to back).3
The drop from 8th rated to 9th (Port) is about 100 FFSS pts. We would expect a team rated 100pts higher to win about 64% of the time (or roughly 13 out of 20).
After that we drop another 55pts down to Melbourne in 10th. The Dees are currently rated below the all-team average of 1500. The 146pt difference between Melbourne and the 8th rated GWS equates to around 70% likelihood (or 14 in 20) of the Giants winning a match-up between the two and a neutral ground.
Is The 8 Set?
The FFSS ratings are updated and changing every week. It could well be that in 3 or 4 weeks time Melbourne or Port will have proven themselves as a genuine contender in a way they have yet to. Similarly, one of the top-8 sides may suffer injuries or other structural issues that make us seriously reconsider their current rating.
With the competition ladder being so tight right now, I also think it is completely reasonable to suggest that there may be some movement in and out of the 8 over the next few weeks before things get completely settled. If Adelaide lose to Geelong and Port beat Carlton this weekend then they will take the Crows' spot.
But speaking long-term and looking forward to September, there does certainly seem to be some credibility in the idea that the current 8 will be this season's finalists.
- and hold that position
- Creating tough chances and relying on your forwards kicking straight to get you out of jail each week is not great sign of team strength compared to creating many high quality chances close to goal and right in front.
- Home Ground Advantage (particularly for interstate teams) sways this a lot. For example, 7th rated Adelaide will go in as favourites at home this Friday night against Geelong.