Fremantle had the hardest draw in 2016

In the run up to the 2016 finals, HPN will do a post every day this week. Such #content. Many #charts.

At the start of every year, HPN does some basic ladder and schedule predictions based on past performance, predicted list improvement and expected strength of schedule based on the first two elements. As we lead into the finals, we thought it would be a good idea to have a look at how each team’s schedules played out in the end, and how fair they truly were.

Post2016 AFL SOS

Note: unlike our preseason strength of schedule ratings, this strength of schedule is only determined via the Pythagorean expectation of team strength, as derived from points for and points against. There is marginal difference if pure win-loss record is used instead.

As you can see above, most teams ended up with a relatively balanced draw. Eight teams ended up with a draw within 1% of pure parity, a draw with perfectly balanced opponents.A further three teams only strayed another half a percent either way, which when considering the inherent imbalances in the draw is a pretty decent achievement.

That leaves seven sides as having relatively unbalanced draws. At the easier end of the spectrum sits Geelong, St Kilda, West Coast and Gold Coast, with the Suns in particular having an easy draw after considering their own strength. Of course, since teams don’t play themselves that’s an inherent influence on draw difficulty. As  Gold Coast saw just one finalist twice this year (GWS), and played six games against the bottom three teams (Essendon, Brisbane and Fremantle). All other sides bar Carlton and Essendon faced at least two finalists twice in 2016, giving the Blues, Dons and Suns a theoretical advantage on which they just couldn’t capitalize on this year.

At the harder end of our strength ladder sits two struggling sides and one finalist, who might be considered an also-ran as well considering their end to the season.

Brisbane was tasked with playing three eventual finalists twice, a hard task for a struggling team (not to undersell their many deficiencies). North Melbourne faced the hardest double-up slate of any side, facing four eventual finalists twice (including defending premiers Hawthorn and eventual minor premiers Sydney). If there is a hope for North in the upcoming month, it’s that their tough schedule undersold their own talent.

However sitting well away from both sides is Fremantle, with a daunting draw based on their performance last year, and not their slide this year. Fremantle saw West Coast, Adelaide, Western Bulldogs and Greater Western Sydney twice, which is a hard task for any side let alone a bottom four one. It also almost certainly assures the Dockers an easier draw next season.

Revisiting – HPN’s pre-season strength of schedule prediction

Strength of Schedule of 2016 fixture

This is what HPN calculated as being the 2016 strength of schedule back in October last year. For a true comparison, the second column is the same measure looked at above. As you can see, HPN thought that North Melbourne and Adelaide would face difficult draws, which ended up occurring. The October prediction saw Fremantle having the fourth hardest draw, and Brisbane having only a slightly harder than expected draw.

At the other end of the scale, the early prediction saw St Kilda, Gold Coast and Geelong having relatively easy draws, along with Essendon (who ended up with a slightly easier draw than parity). West Coast, who ended up with one of the four easiest schedules, was originally predicted to have a nearly even schedule, with their softened schedule largely caused by Fremantle’s slide.

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