We’ve now got a fairly clear picture of where teams sit in their season performances to date. Four clubs sit at the top, rated above 110%, with a gap back to Hawthorn (shaky early, maybe still shaky) and the fading Bulldogs.
Down the other end Essendon are making a late surge towards second-last while Brisbane continue to show actually-okay output up forward once they get the ball inside 50.
The HPN ratings have outlined a pretty good view of the contenders’ strengths and weaknesses:
Sydney’s defence of opponent inside-50s is in a league of its own, while its midfield is merely good. The Swans offensive rating, while threatening to push above average thanks to recent performances, remains a query. The HPN ratings suggest that for Sydney to be a force in the finals, that this improvement must continue.
Adelaide’s stupidly efficient forward line continues to do its thing, with the midfield finally giving them enough supply to really pile it on. They look relatively vulnerable amongst top sides once the ball is inside their defensive 50.
Geelong’s production of inside 50s via their midfield is their main strength. Their efficiency in the forward arc isn’t much better than Sydney’s, and their defence is decent – a distant third to the Swans, but relatively effective at stopping scores from inside 50s. The Cats are relatively well rounded, with no glaring weaknesses (from the numbers at least).
GWS are the most well-rounded of the contenders, but have faded a little in all three categories. Their midfield has dropped off most, dropping below the other top six sides. If the location of the ball is critical, then this might hurt them later in the year. Defence has held up the most for GWS, with GWS killing inside 50s better than any top side other than Sydney. GWS are also rated second in attack, behind the formidable Adelaide forward line.
Hawthorn, if they make the top four, will back themselves to step up their performances for the finals. But the Hawks still look a little shaky in the way they’ve been getting results. Their midfield is their strength (as usual), controlling ball movement and ensuring they get more forward opportunities than they give away. That’s a good thing for them, because their forward-line efficiency has been mediocre over the season and their defence has struggled, sitting as clearly the least effective among top 8 sides.
The Bulldogs, West Coast and North are probably cooked, according to popular consensus, and the HPN ratings sees significant flaws for all three. West Coast’s even contribution across parts of the field (a bit above average in all three areas) suggests they do have potential, but are clearly not the same team as last year. The Bulldogs’ very strong midfield can get them results, but their ability to turn inside 50s into scores is just so poor. North have a similar profile to West Coast, but worse in every category. While the ratings aren’t putting a line through these three yet, it has its (virtual) pen poised.
If Melbourne make the finals we assume they’ll go on to win the flag. And then Trump will be elected president. And then Ashton Kutcher will reveal that 2016 was an elaborate prank for the new season of “Prank’d”, flanked by a surprisingly not dead David Bowie and Prince. You heard it here first.