Perhaps more than in any recent season, there's still of lot of "conditionality" in the final home-and-away season ladder, by which I mean that knowing where Team A finishes tells us a lot about the likely finishes of other teams.
In today's blog we'll take the results of the latest simulation, run after Round 21, and explore that conditionality for all the teams in serious contention for a Finals spot. As you read the blog it might be helpful to have to hand a copy of the current competition ladder and of the draw for the remaining two rounds.
We'll explore the conditionality using heat maps like the one below for Adelaide, which depicts the profile of finishes for each of the other teams should Adelaide be assumed to finish 1st (the block in the upper left), 2nd (the next block), and so on, for each of the feasible Adelaide finishes.
The more dark red a cell is the more often that combination of ladder finishes for Adelaide and the relevant team appeared across the 100,000 replicates of the simulation.
So, for example, looking at that first block we can see that, if Adelaide finish 1st, Hawthorn is most likely to finish 3rd and Geelong or Sydney grab 2nd. Conversely, looking at the second block we see that, if Adelaide finish 2nd, Sydney is most likely to take the Minor Premiership, though Hawthorn finish 1st almost equally as often. Geelong are most likely to finish 3rd conditional on Adelaide finishing 2nd.
Adelaide taking 3rd makes the Hawks good things for the Minor Premiership and Sydney most likely to take 2nd. This is because a 3rd-place Adelaide finish allows Sydney to lose as many games as Adelaide did to finish 3rd, the Swans enjoying a superior percentage to the Crows at present.
Next, we look at Geelong.
If they finish second, which is about the best they can hope for, Adelaide is most likely to finish as Minor Premiers, Hawthorn to finish 3rd and Sydney 4th. If, instead, Geelong finishes 3rd, the Swans are most likely to finish as Minor Premiers, the Crows as Runners-Up and Hawthorn 4th.
GWS' best finish is probably 4th, a result that would most likely see the Cats finish 5th, the Dogs 6th, West Coast 7th, and the Roos 8th.
If, instead, GWS take 5th, Geelong almost certainly finish Top 4, and places 6th to 8th are as above.
A 6th-place finish for GWS allows, most often, the Dogs to grab 5th and Geelong, again to lock in a Top 4 spot.
Next, Hawthorn, a 1st-place finish for which would leave Sydney, Geelong and Adelaide to mostly fight for 2nd to 4th, GWS and the Dogs to argue over 5th and 6th, West Coast to snatch 7th and the Roos 8th.
The Hawks rarely finish 2nd in the simulation because of their significantly inferior percentage compared to the teams immediately below them, which means that a loss is most likely to slip them into 3rd or 4th.
A 3rd-place finish sees Adelaide and Sydney fighting for the Minor Premiership and 4th, and the Cats grabbing 2nd. If, instead, the Hawks wind up 4th then the most likely scenario is Sydney in 1st, Adelaide in 2nd, and Geelong in 3rd.
The Roos almost certainly finish 8th, as their heat map below indicates.
Melbourne have a slight chance (about 5%) of grabbing 8th spot. If they achieve this it will almost certainly be at the Kangaroos' expense.
Sydney, should they finish as Minor Premiers, will most likely see Adelaide in 2nd, Geelong in 3rd, and Hawthorn in 4th.
If, instead, they end up 2nd, a Hawks Minor Premiership is most likely, along with a 3rd-place finish for the Crows and a 4th-place finish for the Cats. A 3rd-place finish for the Swans sees these three other teams finishing in that same order, with Adelaide taking 2nd.
West Coast almost certainly finish in 7th spot, as indicated by their heat map. Whilst they are level with GWS and the Western Bulldogs on points, their percentage is 8 points less than GWS' and almost 14 points more than the Dogs'.
The Dogs mostly finish 5th or 6th, GWS assuming whichever of those two positions the Dogs leave vacant.