I heard Paul Roos say recently that the Swans had missed only two finals series in ten years. I wondered how many Victorian teams could make the same claim. It’s a good time to analyse the results over the past decade as the current mix of teams began in 1997.
I took the ladder positions at the end of round 22 for each of the ten years, and then averaged the position for each of the 16 teams. So the Swans, for example, have finished sixth, third, eighth, tenth, seventh, 11th, fourth, sixth, third and fourth, for an average of 6.2. If you do this for each team, the ladder that results is:
Swans – 6.2
Crows – 6.5
Lions – 6.6
Port Power – 6.6
Eagles – 6.9
Roos – 7.3
Bombers – 7.4
Cats – 8.3
Bulldogs – 8.5
Demons – 8.7
Saints – 8.7
Magpies – 10.3
Blues – 10.9
Dockers – 11.0
Hawks – 11.0
Tigers – 11.1
The top five sides are all from interstate and in the next decade, you’d think the Dockers will move up the table.
Looking further into the past decade’s results, I found that non-Victorian sides have occupied 38 of the 80 available top eight positions, meaning, on average, each of them gets to play in 6.3 out of ten finals series, compared with 4.2 out of ten for the Vics. (It gets worse too: even this result is largely due to strong performances by Victorian teams in the early part of the last ten years. In the past five years, 22 out of the 40 available top eight positions have gone interstate. So now each interstate side gets into the finals 3.7 times every five years compared to 1.8 for Vics.
But footy is about winning flags, right? More bad news for the Victorian clubs as they have won two of the last nine, and the last one was six years ago. This year will follow the same trend, with the winner coming from the top four – all interstate teams.
In fact, interstate sides have finished in 20 out of the available 40 top four places over the last ten years, but again the trend has become even more one-sided over recent years, with 15 out of 20 of the last five years’ places going interstate.
What does it all mean? Well, if you barrack for an interstate club you’ll get a top four finish, (and thus a genuine premiership chance) 2.5 times every five years, while Vic teams get 0.5 top four finishes each per five years. In other words, an interstate barracker gets a top four finish every second year, a Victorian every tenth year. If you assume that a top four finish gives about a one-in-four chance of a premiership then each interstate club will average a premiership every eight years, each Vic club one every 40 years.
AFL administrators want us to believe that recent results are unusual, that things even out over time, and that salary caps, the national draft, and preferential draft picks create a level playing field. I don’t think so.