HPNXmas – HPN’s worst calls of last year

The 12 days of HPNXmas is our way of giving back over the holiday period, and providing a place for some of our thoughts that didn’t get run for whatever reason during the year.

Today on this first day of 2017, we revisit some of our predictions across 2016 and see what was most blatantly wrong. A lot of these emerged from the simple adjusted strength based projections which by their nature don’t account for unexpected changes in form, but it’s still fun to look back and remember the fallibility of any and all models.

The Roosters as minor premiers

We flagged this one at the time as a product of our projections being completely blind to list changes and general club implosion. However, nonetheless, there it is – the minor premier Roosters of 2015 lost a lot of close games so we said if that normalised they’d improve. We attempted to defend this by pointing out the relatively low number of players who’d moved on relative to a 25-man squad, but obviously that’s very limited analysis as some players are more important than others and off-field turmoil can have non-quantifiable effects on team performance.

At any rate, rather than powering to an unexpected minor premiership, instead the Roosters finished 15th. We would note, however, that they fell this hard in large part due to an 0-8 record in games decided by a converted try or less. If they’d won half of those instead of none of them, they’d be around 11th spot. So 2017 should be a bit brighter for them, all things being equal.

Various Jarryd Hayne calls

We were cautious on Hayne initially, and were surprised he survived from the practice squad to make the 53-man roster at the 49ers. However, in late December 2015 (we’re counting this as a 2016 call) we argued he probably wasn’t being played late in the season for sound but obscure contractual flexibility reasons. We said:

If Hayne had been called up any earlier, his options for 2016 would have been greatly reduced.

Obviously, as it turned out, Hayne was cut and not picked up by another team. Clearly what we missed here was that Hayne’s options were apparently not constrained by sport, country or hemisphere, as he moved first to Fijian Sevens and then back to Rugby League.

Port Adelaide as “risers” – again

We projected 2016 in the AFL based on the previous year’s records, adjusting for close game luck, relative age change, and draw strength. For the second year running we had Port Adelaide improving to a top 4 position. Port hit the trifecta – a young list expected to improve more than older lists, a poor record in close games, and a softer draw than previously. For similar reasons we also had Collingwood improving from 10 to nearly 13 wins, which didn’t eventuate either.

We also had Richmond in second place (!) but that was based purely on them having won 15 games the season before, along with an assumed decline for Sydney, Fremantle and Hawthorn.

Jaguares to win their Super Rugby conference

In framing a statistical prediction of the Super Rugby based on fixture we needed to assign a strength to the newcomers. We called the Sunwolves and Kings 2-win teams and the Jaguares a 9-win team. As justification we said:

An indicator of their strength is that the Jaguares have assembled most of the Argentinian national side (the Pumas) save for several of their big guns. The Jaguares are the sort of team Argentina might field in a tour game or World Cup group game against Namibia.

We projected the Lions to regress due to their good luck in close games, sneaking the Jaguares into the top spot in the luck-adjusted projection.

Instead, the Jaguares’ 28 internationals took them to four wins, while the Lions improbed from 9 wins to 11 wins and ran away with the conference.

Parramatta should still make finals if they keep up current form

They um, didn’t.

After being docked their 6 wins from the first 9 rounds we said they could make finals by beating teams that were below them on the ladder, and noted that their draw opened up in the back part of the season. They instead won 7 of their last 15, falling 5 wins short of what we (correctly, it turns out) thought was the target of 12 wins. Oh well.

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