The Final 2016 #AFL Consensus Phantom Draft

AFL Draft Day is upon us, and it appears that the draft picture is finally clearing up. As a quick refresher, the HPN Consensus Phantom Draft (CPD) takes a bunch of phantom drafts from different sources, combines the rankings and sorts the players accordingly. HPN also looks at the “mode” selections, I.E. which clubs are linked to what players, and at what pick. This post describes it in more detail.

The drafts used are:

But with no further ado:

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NOTE: Jack Bowes will almost certainly not be selected at pick 6 because that pick is already the Suns’ (but he will be matched by GC wherever he is bid on). Before we discuss the CPD in more depth, let’s have a look at how the first round has shifted in the last week and a bit.

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At the top end of the CPD the three players have firmed up, but HPN considers that the top three being selected in this order to be very unlikely. Tim Taranto has risen sharply in the final few days, with GWS’s rumoured interest pushing him up the order. In response, Jack Bowes has a nearly identical slide down the order, perhaps fuelled by the suggestion that Brisbane will not bid on him at 3. Will Brodie also slides significantly down the pecking order, dropping down to the fringes of the top 10. WA youngster Griffin Logue also jumps into the top 10, at the expense of Tim English. Elsewhere, Jy Simpkin and Will Hayward’s stocks have improved in the last few days of doing nothing, with Todd Marshall going the other way to balance it out somewhat.

Risers and Sliders

Here’s a list of all the players that have either risen or fallen at least three draft spots since the last CPD:

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Jake Waterman is the biggest riser over the last 11 days, with his stocks improving from being a fringe pick to a firm choice at the start of the 3rd round. Kobe Mutch has also been the focus of much speculation, notably around whether GWS will match his bid or not – consensus is he’ll be let slip by the Giants.

But perhaps the biggest rise (with respect to draft implications) is that of Isaac Cumming, who has firmly moved to a mid second round selection to the fringes of the first. We believe that the CPD may have him a touch low at pick 27, considering he was a last minute addition to the attendance list at the Draft (something usually reserved for first rounders and potential top-10 picks).

Emma Quayle is indicative of this change, with the Age scribe suggesting that Sydney will bid on Cumming at pick 10 – worlds away from his original place in the pecking order. If Cumming was to go that early, there may be major complications around the availability of other GWS academy selections.

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The biggest slider of the draft is, unfortunately, Alex Villis, who is unlikely to be selected on the night after a heart issue was picked up by a medical screening before the draft. Two academy selections, Zach Sproule and Brad Scheer, have seemingly slid down the order, perhaps a byproduct of the increased attention on Cumming and Mutch. Other notable sliders include Josh Rotham, Dylan Clarke and Corey Lyons, the latter of which has nearly slid out of contention for being selected.

Why the CPD above might not happen, and a potential better method

The critical issue of the CPD at the top of the post is that it unlikely to cover the scenarios presented by the draft. Last year’s champion Matt Balmer laid it out simply on twitter earlier this week:

Balmer is not alone with selecting scenario 1 as the most likely; of the later and more reputable phantom drafts (such as those by Quayle, Twomey and Anderson) have all opted for scenario 1. The issue with this is that not all the phantom drafts agree with this as the most likely scenario. All of our drafters agree that McGrath will go in the top two – beyond that confusion reigns. As a result three of our thirteen phantoms still have McCluggage going at pick 1, and some have him snapped up at 2. And whilst opinion is moving to Taranto being subsequently chosen at 2, it is far from unanimous at this point.

To try to account for this, HPN has revived a secondary method that we deployed last year to look at the most likely consequential outcomes of each pick. The Mode CPD looks at the most common selections at each pick, after the players that have previously been chosen have been removed from the pool.

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Essentially, for the top 20 or 25 picks, this represents the most favoured “decision tree” among those available to clubs. Beyond this point, and due to the sheer amount of talent on offer, the consensus fades significantly. It should be noted that any ties later on are broken by the higher average selection as determined by the method above.

HPN will be back next week with a draft recap, and to look at which phantom drafter was the most accurate.

The Australian Cricket Team Need To Start Loving Turtles More

It’s the offseason, so HPN thought we’d branch out a bit while the AFL world is slowing down. Here’s the first of our cricket articles of the year.

Summer has barely started, but the Australian Cricket Team has seemingly already lost the faith (but gained the attention) of the general cricketing public, with repeated collapses against a strong South African bowling attack. To attempt to remedy the situation the chairman of selectors, and chief Marsh advocate, Rod Marsh has already fallen on his sword, and several changes are afoot.

But maybe the answer is simpler than all of this. Maybe the answer is… turtles.


David Warner is among Australia’s best two batsmen right now, and possibly even the best on raw talent. However, for a fair period of his career, he was considered a slight disappointment at Test level. In the middle of 2013 his Test career hit a cross roads – averaging just 28 for the year in the longer form, and suspended from the team for taking a swing at Joe Root at the Walkabout bar in England. It was just after this (one day after uprooting Joe) that Warner truly embraced the turtle, and found his form.

Warner was sent to tour Africa with Australia A, and started to find his form again. Recalled for the last three tests of the 2013 UK Ashes, Warner was slow to find his feet but the signs were there. It’s after this that Warner started to poke his head out of his shell.


By the time the return Ashes series began, Warner was neck deep in turtle love. And the stats showed the full story:warneraveseries

Warner’s form turnaround mirrored that of the wider Australian side, as they wiped the floor with the English. After losing the series in the UK 3-0, Australia swept England 5-0 with Warner leading the way as top runscorer for the series. The turtles had done their job. Warner followed this up with a fantastic series against South Africa, no doubt still buoyed by the turtle love in his veins.


Our research shows that Warner has tweeted about turtles 12 times in his Test career. The major period of his turtle activity is June 2013 to August 2014 – which strongly correlates with the peak of his Test career to date. Since then he has just made one turtle tweet, about Usman Khawaja’s TNMT t-shirt:

Yes that's @usman_khawajy wearing his favourite shirt. He is like me he loves his turtles.

A post shared by David Warner (@davidwarner31) on

This photo came just before Australia’s domination of NZ in NZ, and was arguably the making of Khawaja’s Test career. Despite this, Warner himself had a relatively weak series, presumably because at this stage it was no longer himself expressing his love of turtles, but simply Khawaja. Warner, for reasons we can only guess at, experienced a decline in form as well as in desire to publicly proclaim love for turtles.

The turtles are necessary to the form; to that there is no doubt.


We are of course being somewhat facetious here, but perhaps there’s an underlying point worth making. Warner, like the rest of society, seems to produce better results when he is happy and enjoying life. For him, this means displaying his mad turtle affection. A team worn down by near constant touring and recent failure could do worse than to rally around the symbol of their enfant terrible. And as far as HPN knows no national sporting team is nicknamed the Turtles.

The turtle/tortoise might also be a good metaphor for success in modern cricket; in that success sometimes takes time. Rarely does a player come out of first class levels ready to succeed at the highest level. Often they need to acclimatise to the surrounding and fully come out of their shell. Whilst changes will likely have to be made, the virtue of patience should be at the forefront when making them. Some players will fail at Test level where they saw success in the Shield; but that’s not often known for a while after their debut. If Head or Bancroft or Patterson or Dean is called up for the final South African Test, maybe the sporting public is best to let them prove their worth before calling for their heads.

And Warner should show them the power of the turtle before it is too late.

Introducing the 2016 Consensus Phantom Draft

Since 2014 HPN has trawled the internet in order to find out which club is meant to pick which player in the upcoming draft, in lieu of our lack of knowledge about junior footy. So, for the third year in a row, we have produced a Consensus Phantom Draft (CPD), attempting to use the wisdom of the crowd to aggregate the phantom drafts and power rankings/big boards of a range of experts in order to come up with the average view on the pecking order of players.

The method is simple – we have assembled a number of draft rankings (seven phantom drafts and two “power rankings” from the mainstream media”) in order to sort the prospective draftees. We’ll use this to identify which players and clubs there is consensus on, and where the experts disagree. HPN looks at two different measures: the average draft position and the club “mode” – which club most frequently selects any given player.

At the end of the draft, we’ll take a look back and see which phantom drafters have been the most accurate. Last year, Matt Balmer came out closest to the pin on average, quite an achievement for a first-year journalism student. Knightmare and Cal Twomey tied for getting the most players to the right club.

The phantom drafts we’ve used so far are:

We also took two power rankings, which explicitly don’t represent expected selections but as the current thoughts of influential draft watchers in the mainstream football press, are worth incorporating into our rankings which also don’t consider club needs.

We are not re-publishing their work here in full because we don’t want to steal traffic away from these sites, and want them to get fair reward for their hard work. If you want to read the reasons for all the selections made by those writers above, we encourage that you have a read.

We encourage readers to bring new phantoms and power rankings to our attention, especially those at independent websites which we might have missed. Hit us up @hurlingpeople on twitter, via email at hurlingpeoplenow [at] gmail.com or via the comments below.

Here, then, is the first version of the Consensus Phantom Draft:

phantom-1

Note that in a number of cases we’ve got players going to clubs, based on their ranking, that might not want or need them and who nobody individually predicted. That’s an intended function. It illustrates the consensus pecking order and it helps suggests clubs that might be “reaching” for needs or a local player, rather than taking the best available.

We’ve listed the draft range of each player and their most common club as valuable context. Any player listed with a low range of “+” means that at least one listed phantom draft did not select that player in their draft of that length.

The “most common club” selection is a mode view, identifying which club is most frequently indicated by each phantom drafter as picking a player, regardless of position. This analysis excludes the Twomey and Beveridge rankings as those do not indicate clubs.

McConsensus near the top

There is not, as yet, a consensus number 1, with drafters stumping for McGrath and McLuggage in roughly equal numbers with McGrath just ahead. At three the phantom drafters generally agreed to send Ben Ainsworth to Brisbane, with two academy players bid next (Bowes and Setterfield). At six Carlton the drafters have either Will Brodie or Sam Peetrevski-Seton, with the Suns taking the other one.

Further into the top ten there is a degree of confidence about the destinations but not the picks of certain players, due largely to the multiple selections in the hands of the Suns. The drafters have Tim Taranto and Jack Scrimshaw headed north to the Suns, but the draft rank has Freo snapping up the former. The mode, however, has coalesced around the Dockers stumping for (slightly) mature WAFL ruckman Tim English despite the recent re-signing of Zac Clarke.

The phantom drafters seem to be in substantial agreement about both of the Swans’ early picks – Griffin Logue most frequently ends up in the Harbour City at pick ~10, and mature age Luke Ryan most frequently at pick ~20. On pure rank, however, the drafters have the Swans stumping for English at ~10 and Josh Battle at 20.

By contrast, there is almost no consensus about what North Melbourne will do with pick ~13, with nearly every drafter settling for a different player, such as Oliver Florent, Daniel Venables, Todd Marshall, Jarrod Berry and Griffin Logue. On draft rank the CPD gives it to Florent, after North bids for Perryman first.

The wildcards

The widest range of any pick here is probably Alex Villis, whose recent heart condition revelations have created doubt about whether he will be drafted. Josh Poulter has him missing out completely, while a number of older drafts value him as high as pick 16 (mostly going to Port Adelaide). Josh Rotham (14 to beyond pick 44) also looks like a bit of a mystery.

Among earlier picks, outside midfielder Oliver Florent drifts between 9 and 24.

Who will the Giants take?

In terms of the most common destination club, for five of the six first or second round calibre GWS academy prospects, a majority of drafters have most going to the Giants. Several feel Zachary Sproule will be passed over, but there is unanimity on Will Setterfield, Harry Perryman and Harrison Macreadie and near certainty on Isaac Cumming.

The “victim” of this certainty is Kobe Mutch, expected to go around 44 and most frequently drafted to the Swans. As the Giants have between 6-8 spots available on their list, the Giants will be able to take all six if they have enough points in the bank to match bids (after using pick two on either McGrath or McLuggage).

A “most frequently picked” consensus phantom

Below is an alternative phantom draft, assigning each pick the player most frequently ranked there. This should in theory get closer to the thinking of phantom drafters regarding which clubs might take particular players. To do this we took the mode of each draft pick:

mode1

We assigned the academy players in advance and then drafted around them, breaking ties with the higher consensus rankings.

The result is a first 30 where most players have some degree of consensus around them. Will Brodie is identified here as a wildcard – his mode selection is pick 5, but he gets bumped by Setterfield, is less common at picks 6-10 than other players, and instead is taken by Gold Coast at 11. These sorts of cascading dependencies are of course pretty common in drafting, and often why “sliders” occur.

AFLW Power Rankings – November 2016

Earlier this week, we took a look at the composition of the AFLW inaugural lists by state and using All-Star status as a measure of the distribution of elite talent. Here, we’re going to update our earlier power ranking to factor in actual team selections.

This is the power ranking as we think it stands. We can’t yet speak to factors such as team balance, tactics, or statistics, so the two main factors we have available for consideration are:

  • the distribution of elite talent; and
  • estimated strength of the depth players, measured by past performances of each state team in representative matches.

1 – Collingwood

Collingwood have assembled the most top talent

Collingwood have the most former All-Star players, a full 12 of 75, nearly one-fifth of those playing in the 2017 AFLW. With 16-a-side and 22 named for each match, this is a strong but not decisive advantage.

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The Pies recruited Emma King from WA as a marquee and also have Moana Hope, Meg Hutchins and Stephanie Chiocci from the elite upper echelons of the All-Star talent pool. Nicola Stevens was a 2016-only All-Star player, but was called the best defender in the AFLW draft and may also be a very strong talent for the Pies. On a sheer count of proven talent, Collingwood must be considered a premiership favourite.

Of all the teams, Collingwood may have the most potent forward line on paper, with five-time VFLW leading goalkicker Hope joined by St Kilda Sharks teammate Jasmine Garner, 2011 VFLW leading goalkicker Sarah D’Arcy and Australian Cricketer Jess Cameron. The Pies ruck division also has enviable depth, with WA standout King joined by the up-and-coming East Freo ruck Ruby Schleicher and former two-time VFLW best and fairest Lou Watton. Watton should be the most productive of any of the free agents selected if she can get up to her previous form, and is an absolute steal as a free agent.

More than any other club, the Pies are gambling on the strength of their spine over that of their midfield – they also have the current VFLW Team of the Year full back in their team too. The only slight question comes around midfield depth, but the delivery of the ruck and strength of their utilities (such as current VFLW B&F Emma Grant) should help them compete.

Collingwood’s recruitment strategy also stands out from the other Victorian teams. They are the only Melbourne side to recruit multiple Western Australians – and good ones to boot. Three of their four WA players were recruited through the draft, meaning that the Pies had to convince those players to enter the Victorian pool instead of the WA one, suggesting direct contact before the draft.

You could flip Fremantle ahead of Collingwood if you want, but for our money Collingwood sit as the standout at this stage.

2 – Fremantle

Fremantle have been brought back to the pack but should still be very strong

Fremantle only have four of the “elite” 25 players, about average in the league. This is in spite of Western Australians constituting a full third (i.e. nine) of the “elite 25” players.

We predicted in June that other clubs would raid Western Australia for marquee signings and this has eventuated. This is very good for the competitive balance of the league – the transfer of Chelsea Randall and Kellie Gibson to Adelaide, Emma Swanson and Renee Forth to GWS, and Emma King to Collingwood, all as marquees, has probably blunted the Dockers enough that they’re not clearly and easily the best team in the competition as a full WA side would have been.

Fremantle have 28 of the 40 Western Australians in the league, but have lost five of the best players in the game. Only 10 of the 27 listed players on the Dockers list played for Western Australia in the June exhibition match against the Bulldogs.

Of all the areas around the ground, it appears that the Dockers ruck strength took the biggest hit. Emma King decamped to Collingwood, Sabrina Frederick-Traub (a KPF who goes in the ruck) headed up north to Brisbane and Ruby Schleicher also headed to the Pies.

The single biggest unknown for the AFLW remains how strong each club’s depth players are. That depth will be a function of the depth of the talent in that state and it’s here we think Fremantle gain an edge. We know that Western Australia’s state team has a track record of matching half-strength Victorian teams (for example earlier this year versus a Western Bulldogs aligned squad), and we know a full fifth of the competition talent pool is Western Australian, and that Fremantle are happy to pick their whole team from their home pool. However, the sheer loss of elite talent is hard to ignore, and Fremantle have had to dive into the fringes of talent in some positions due to interstate raids.

In summary, we think it’s reasonable to believe that despite the important levelling effect of marquee player poaching, Fremantle’s non-elite depth will be better than the 1/4 of Victoria available in the draft to each Victorian club. So we think they will still contend for the first title.

3 – Western Bulldogs

The Bulldogs look pretty stacked with elite talent

The Bulldogs also have four of the elite 25 we’ve identified and 11 of 75 All-Star players. These playersinclude Katie Brennan and Aasta O’Connor (both entrenched former Queenslanders) as well as Emma Kearney and Ellie Blackburn. Three of these were among the six the Bulldogs retained and pre-listed in 2015, with the Dogs clearly benefiting from the loyalty cultivated through that longer club connection.

O’Connor is one of the game’s premier rucks, but her standing slid this year due to a knee injury she’s yet to return from. Having Brennan up forward and O’Connor in the ruck (if fit) give the Bulldogs a powerful spine and the spread of proven talent should put them in the frame to push for a grand final.

However it is their midfield that shapes as being potentially the most potent in the competition, with the Dogs lining up three of the five current VFLW Team of the Year starting midfielders in Blackburn, Lambert and Kearney. They also have two of the top VFLW defenders in Ebb and Scott.

One factor which might help the Dogs gain an edge is their prior experience running a women’s team, however they have lost their coach along the way to Brisbane.

4 – Brisbane Lions

Brisbane are effectively the Queensland state team

The Lions have managed to recruit nearly everyone from Queensland, making them a nearly exact match for the strong Queensland state side of recent years, but leavened with a sprinkle of top talent from elsewhere. Queensland is clearly the third strongest state in womens footy and so a team made up of nearly all of its talent should be a strong competitor.

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There are, however, three significant missing QLD players. Katie Brennan and Aasta O’Connor are ex-QLDers but counted in our figures as Victorian due to being drafted from the Darebin Falcons after spending the last few years there. Brennan was a Bulldogs’ marquee signing and O’Connor was drafted from the pool, nominating for Victoria. It was unlikely that either would go back to Brisbane, but if the Lions had managed to lure them, they’d possibly be topping this power ranking.

The other big absence for the Lions is Jordan Zanchetta with an ACL injury, leaving her undrafted.

In terms of interstate recruits, Brisbane signed Sabrina Frederick-Traub from WA as a marquee. We didn’t call her “elite” in our figures because she wasn’t drafted to the first 2015 All-Star game which gave us the only definitive ranking of talent as defined by the keenest observers. However, she’s currently 19 and was drafted to the second game in 2015 through a mini-draft at a very young age, so she is clearly an emerging star. Together with Tayla Harris, Frederick-Traub should give Brisbane a powerful forward line.

Kaitlyn Ashmore, from Victoria, was already working at the Lions and signed as a priority pick on that basis. Jessica Wuetschner also deserves a mention as likely the most travelled player in the league – originally Tasmanian, she was drafted to Brisbane from Claremont in WA, in what must have been a pre-arranged state nomination.

Despite the elite QLD absences, we can therefore stand by our June assessment that Brisbane should be fairly strong. Excluding Frederick-Traub, the Lions have secured 9 of the 75 All-Star players (ranked third for this) and three elite players in Tayla Harris, Emma Zielke and Kaitlyn Ashmore.

The question is again depth – whether Brisbane’s local talent is equal to one quarter of Victoria’s depth. Past records show Queensland representative teams being a step below WA or half-strength Victorian teams, but there’s no reason at this stage not to assume that their depth won’t be competitive with the quarter-strength Victorian depth available to each Victorian side through the draft.

The Lions also have advantages all of their own. Their core should already be familiar to each other and to their experienced coach in Craig Starcevich, who has worked with most of the players at Queensland or the Bulldogs All-Star team. They’ll have the summer heat of Brisbane on their side. We expect them to contend strongly for finals.

5- Melbourne

Melbourne look to be a step behind the Pies and Dogs

Melbourne’s eight All-Star players include three elite players, meaning they show notionally as touch stronger than Carlton. Melbourne have kept Daisy Pearce and Melissa Hickey from among their six pre-listed 2015 players, losing the others interstate. Their other elite player is Elise O’Dea.

Pearce is probably the best player in the league, and the Demons have 6 of the 14 Darebin Falcons including Pearce, Hickey and O’Dea, so their core of elite players will have some familiar teammates around them. We expect with such a short pre-season that pre-existing chemistry will be a factor, and the Dees have also banked on this.

The Demons have a relatively strong backline, with VFLW Team of the Year members Hickey and Paxman lining up in defence. The main difference between the two Victorian teams named above and the Demons is that they are lacking just a little in established top-end talent.

Overall, in terms of proven top-level talent, the Dees have not assembled the same quality as the Magpies or Bulldogs. The Demons’ biggest advantage is likely to be a head-start in off-field factors, having already run a women’s team along with the Bulldogs in the All-Star series over recent years.

6 – Carlton

Carlton are relatively unheralded

Carlton’s two players from the elite 25 are Darcy Vescio (originally pre-listed by the Bulldogs in 2015, making her one of the best 12 players in the country) and Katie Loynes. Loynes is a question mark – she was drafted at pick 110 likely due to being in recovery from a serious knee injury.

The Blues have recruited relatively strongly from the VFLW, with six players from the 2016 team of the year. But most of these players come from the flanks, and their tall strength will really be tested. Time will tell, but their drafting strategy will need to have been top notch to overcome the more fancied lists like Collingwood or the Bulldogs.

HPN has rated the Blues behind Melbourne. On paper it seems like the Demons might have a very good to great defensive unit, whereas Carlton doesn’t appear to be particularly strong in any one part of the ground. Additionally Carlton appears to have the most diverse set of recruited players of the Victorian sides, with each predicted line being filled with players from multiple teams, presenting a potential cohesion issue.

7 – GWS

GWS should struggle with depth

GWS and Adelaide are the two sides who have drawn most heavily from beyond their own city. Both also have significant secondary bases in the ACT and Northern Territory.

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The Sydney and Canberra player pools are a bit less dominated by a single club than the NT and SA. This means that a big challenge for GWS will be in forming a team from individual stars used to dominating their local teams and games. The GWS list pulls from far and wide, recruiting players from 18 different clubs in half a dozen competitions. No other club will have as few players as familiar with each other via week-to-week club games as GWS. The most players GWS have from a single club is four from the UNSW-Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs.

The other issue is that the depth of the local NSW/ACT players is relatively unknown. Will they step up their games when training with the best regularly? Who knows at this point.

Where we think GWS has an edge over Adelaide below is their larger group of representative-level recruits from the three “power states” of Victoria, WA and Queensland. The Giants have 10 from these states. Compared with the Crows, the Giants may have as few as six local players on the ground at key points, compared with a minimum of 13 for the Crows.

The Giants sourced several pre-draft priority picks from Victoria. Those are Jessica Dal Pos and Phoebe McWilliams as recent All-Stars, plus Louise Stephenson who represented the Bulldogs at age 18 in the first exhibition match back in 2013.

Of the WA contingent, Alex Williams played for Western Australia this year. Ashleigh Guest, drafted from Victoria, played in the half-Victorian Melbourne exhibition team. Aimee Schmidt played for the Eagles in the Western Derby exhibition game, placing her near WA representative level.

Clare Lawton, based with the Army in Townsville, and Alex Saundry from Melbourne Uni are the only power-state players who seem to have been outside representative level this year.

The season-ending injury to Forth will hurt the Giants but they do seem to have at least a core group of established state representative players. Collectively, alongside the five fit recent All-Star players is a group of five who we call “depth” level, but who nonetheless have been representative calibre players in WA or Victoria.

8 – Adelaide

Adelaide should also struggle

South Australia is not a strong women’s football state at the present time. It has had barely any players selected to play All-Star games and as a representative side is somewhere around the strength of NSW.

The SA/NT talent base is probably at least on par with NSW/ACT. South Australia traditionally struggled in past representative fixtures, for example losing a 2013 Championships Division 2 grand final to the ACT. However, the recent (2016) narrow win by SA/NT over NSW/ACT suggests the talent base has caught up in terms of the depth available to each club.

Both “elite” Crows players are from WA, the Chelsea Randall and Kellie Gibson. Randall in particular comes highly rated, being among the dozen players prelisted by the two teams that year before the draft.

The Crows’ other five All-Star players break down as three from the Northern Territory and two from South Australia, illustrating the critical importance for the viability of the Crows in securing the NT as a secondary market and talent base.

Adelaide’s only other “power state” player is Sarah Perkins, who kicked 52 goals and was named in the VFLW team of the year this year, and who played for the half-Victorian Melbourne exhibition team. This is a notable contrast to the Giants’ larger group of such players.

The bulk of Adelaide’s list is players from Morphettville Park (8) and Waratah (5), the strongest teams in Adelaide and Darwin. Thirteen of fourteen South Australians in the inaugural AFLW list are at the Crows (the exception is a non-football rookie at Carlton), as are all eight from the Northern Territory. This group’s ability to transition from dominating at home to matching it with players from stronger competitions in WA, QLD and Victoria will be crucial to their prospects.

Danielle Goding is a very notable absence – probably the most significant absence in the AFLW. She was pick 2 (therefore rated 14th best) in the 2015 All-Star draft but doesn’t seem to have played football above club level since this rep game in March. She still played in the SAWFL grand final in September, but only played 8 club games this year (and one reserves game).

Given the apparent weakness of the local recruiting pools, it’s hard to see the depth on the Crows’ list being able to match the depth at the Victorian clubs, at Fremantle, or at Brisbane. Compared to GWS, Adelaide’s cream of interstate talent looks slightly better, but there’s less of it compared to the larger foreign legion at the Giants. If the Crows are competitive, it will be on the back of new and unanticipated improvement in their local player base.

Which AFLW clubs have the most elite talent?

Back in June we attempted an initial power ranking of the AFLW teams based on the strength of their state-based recruitment zones. As a quick reminder we came up with the following based on elite talent distribution and results in representative games:

1 – Fremantle
2 – Brisbane
3/4 – Melbourne/Bulldogs
5/6 – Collingwood/ Carlton
7/8 – GWS/Adelaide

We noted at the time that the key questions would be:

  • How much of the glut of WA talent would Fremantle retain?
  • Would Brisbane get all the top Queensland players?
  • Would any Victorian teams end up more “stacked” than the others?
  • Where will GWS and Adelaide source their players?

We’re going to publish more detailed club profiles and an updated power ranking based on these questions, but first, here’s a look at the overall statistical picture for each club. This will start to paint the picture.

States of Origin

Clubs have mostly recruited from their home states. This is unsurprising. With low pay (still unconfirmed but with negotiations apparently starting at a non-professional $5000 base), it was unlikely many players would relocate for the multi-month commitment, including preseason, without personal factors involved.

Secondly, as a consequence of non-professional pay levels, there were restrictive draft rules meaning that players nominated a single state they were willing to play in. That made the Victorian draft the only competitive component of the process.

The resulting lists look like this:

clubsstate.PNG

Fremantle is a depleted Western Australian state team and Brisbane are effectively the Queensland state team plus a handful of elite players from elsewhere.

Melbourne and the Bulldogs picked up a Tasmanian player each (Emma Humphries and Ellyse Gamble) while Carlton are purely Victorian except for a non-football rookie originally from SA (Kate Shierlaw). Collingwood are the only Victorian side to have looked significantly beyond their borders, recruiting four players from Western Australia.

GWS and Adelaide are unsurprisingly more mixed and relying significantly on their respective secondary markets of Canberra and the Northern Territory.

In an interesting side note for the Crows, and a small sign of how heavily location matters in the not-yet-professionalised AFLW, their list contains two Defence Force players originally from Canberra who just happen to currently be stationed in the Crows’ areas. There are in fact four serving Defence personnel recruited to the AFLW overall.

Here’s how the overall State of Origin of the 218 players selected looks, with Victorians making up half the numbers and Western Australia contributing nearly one-fifth of the talent:

soo2

“State of origin” here means mostly the official listing of most recent Australian Rules club/league to determine what state each player is from. Players like Aasta O’Connor and Katie Brennan, who have long since relocated to play in the VFLW, are therefore labelled as Victorian though one assumes they’d front up for Queensland in a representative context.

However we’ve made some corrections where this was clearly nonsensical, such as in the case of Jenna McCormick who is from Mt Gambier, played W-League for Adelaide and Canberra United and was drafted “from Coorparoo” to the Crows after three games there. We’ve labelled her as from South Australia, not Queensland.

Clubs of origin

Next, here’s the most drafted clubs, illustrating the concentration of strength in Victoria at this year’s top five VFLW clubs and top three WAWFL clubs:

clubs

Six clubs, five from Victoria plus Swan Districts, have had the majority of a best-22 side drafted this year. Those players willl all still be able to play for their local teams due to the timing of the AFLW.

And here’s the leading club for each state:

clubsstate.PNG

Morphettville Park and Waratah both contribute the majority of their competition’s players (making the Crows almost a temporary merger of the two sides). University sides lead the way for both Queensland and New South Wales, which otherwise have a more balanced distribution of AFL recruits. Two of the ACT’s seven players are GWS rookies Jess Bibby and Ellie Brush from basketball and soccer backgrounds respectively.

Elite talent distribution

Before can move into any form of power rankings we need to look at where the top end talent has ended up and how to define it.

For simplicity’s sake, we’re defining the cream of the competition at two levels. The less exclusive is “all-Star” level, the 75 players who played for the Bulldogs or Melbourne in the 2015 and 2016 All-Star representative games. The more exclusive is the “elite” third of this talent who were the first 25 players picked in 2015 (either by being prelisted by the two clubs or picked at the top of the min idraft).

This breaks the competition down roughly into the top 12% being “elite”, the rest of the top third being All-Star grade, with the remaining two thirds being depth:

elite

We should note that a few edge cases must exist here – players who were injured or unavailable, young emerging players such as Sabrina Frederick-Traub who were only 18 in 2015 and have since improved, top level recruits from other sports who end up making an immediate impact.

However, as a proxy, selection in the All-Star games will represent a good view of the elite of the available talent.

The Elite and All-Star players have been recruited as follows:

elite1

Or in graphical format (note that Fremantle and GWS have an extra player due to being permitted to replace long-term injured marquees Kiara Bowers and Renee Forth) the talent spread looks like this:

elite2

Collingwood and the Bulldogs have ended up with more proven top talent than Carlton and Melbourne, while Brisbane sits third in this view. Notably, this suggests the Pies and Dogs sides have the inside running to be best among the Victorian sides.

We can see the relative struggle that GWS and Adelaide, based in development markets without the benefit of any real locally-based top-tier talent, have had in securing the best of the best players.

What we can also see, however, is that the majority of each club’s lists of 27 or 28 players are “depth”, meaning clubs will be depending heavily on them. This means the local strength of each state will still be a significant factor in the competitiveness of each side.

We look in more detail at each club, assess the likely depth, and give an updated power ranking, in this post.