Simulating the Finalists and Finals for 2016 After Round 20

MoSSBODS right now is very much a Crows fan - some might say too much of a fan - and that enthusiasm reveals itself quite clearly in the results of the latest simulations.

In those simulations, looking firstly at the home-and-away projections, we find that the Hawks' loss to Melbourne in Round 20 very much opened the door to the pursuing pack.

While the simulations still have the Hawks as about 30% chances for the Minor Premiership, that percentage is less than one-half of what it was before the weekend. The Hawks' loss was mostly the Crows' and Swans' gain, although the Cats also saw their Minor Premiership chances increase from about 10% to 16%.

The Hawks' Top 4 chances were also dented, leaving them as, curiously, only 73% chances for such a finish, which is less than the chances for Adelaide, Geelong and Sydney, and only slightly above that for GWS. That's because, as we can see from the Dinosaur Chart, the Hawks' ladder profile is curiously shaped - they're most likely to finish 1st, but, if they don't, most likely to finish 3rd. They're also more likely to finish 6th than 2nd..

Other team profiles are generally much more standard, though Sydney's is a little atypical as well, with each of positions 1st through 4th about equally likely.

The heat-map of that data is as follows.

The battle for places in the Top 5 is rendered very starkly in this chart. Outside the Top 5, teams' fates are much clearer and concentrated in two or three most-likely finishes.

According to the simulations (and in line with what many sports journalists have been saying for a little while now), our 2016 Finalists have all but been determined. There is, however, possibly a little sparring to do over 8th place, with the Roos, Saints and Port all having non-trivial chances for such a finish, but with the Roos having by far the better of those prospects.

The Spoon's final resting cabinet remains less clear, though Essendon are now about 2/1 on favourites to be adding it to their collection. The Lions soak up most of the remaining potential though there are universes, however rare, where the Dockers claim last.

(By the way, given current TAB prices and the probability estimates for each team's Minor Premiership, Top 4 and Top 8 chances shown above, the only value bets are Adelaide and Hawthorn for the Minor Premiership.)

TOP 2s, 4s AND SO ON

With so much uncertainty remaining around the exact ordering of the top teams, it's to be expected that this will be apparent when we look at some of the most-likely orderings for teams.

For example, even the most-likely Top 2s turned up in less than 10% of simulation replicates. It had Adelaide finishing 1st and Geelong 2nd.

Eight other pairings appeared in at least half as many replicates, and two others (Hawthorn/Adelaide and Hawthorn/Sydney) appeared almost as often as that most-likely pairing.

Across the 10 most common pairings, Adelaide appears in six, Geelong in five, Hawthorn and Sydney in four, and GWS in one.

Expanding our view to encompass the Top 4 spots we find even more uncertainty. The most common Top 4, Adelaide/Geelong/Hawthorn/Sydney, occurs in less than 3% of simulation replicates, though it is more than 25% more likely than the next most common quartet of Hawthorn/Sydney/Adelaide/Geelong.

The same four teams appear in all 10 of the most common Top 4s, just in different orders, with Hawthorn finishing 1st in half of the 10, Sydney in three, and Adelaide in the remaining two. Geelong finishes no higher than 2nd, and GWS no higher than 3rd.

There's more certainty about positions 5th to 8th, though even here the most likely ordering of GWS/Western Bulldogs/West Coast/Kangaroos appears in less than 1 replicate in 7.

The West Coast and Kangaroos, usually in that order, share 7th and 8th between them in all but one of the quartets shown here. In the one where they don't, the Eagles sneak into 6th, pushing the Dogs into 7th and leaving the Roos in 8th. 

Combined, the 10 orderings shown here account for about two-thirds of all simulation replicates.

It's still very difficult to talk meaningfully about a most-likely Top 8, but there are now some orderings that have probabilities above 1%. The 10 most common of those orderings appear below.

Whilst we can see some signs of MoSSBODS' high opinions of the Crows in the tables and charts we've just looked at, that becomes much clearer when we look next at MoSSBODS' assessment of team's Finals chances.

For example, the heatmap below reveals that MoSSBODS has the Crows as clear Flag favourites, assessing them as almost 40% chances for that honour. It also shows that, should the Crows make the Grand Final, they will be, weighting across all potential opponents, about 62% favourites to win it (ie 38.8/(38.8 + 23.6)).


Geelong are assessed as being next most likely to win the Flag. MoSSBODS has them as about 18% chances, and has their weighted Grand Final probability, should they make it, as about 54% against all potential opponents.

In terms of most likely finishes, Adelaide's is to win the Grand Final, Geelong's, Sydney's, Hawthorn's and GWS's is to lose a Preliminary Final, the Western Bulldogs' is to lose a Semi Final, while West Coast's, the Kangaroos', St Kilda's, Port Adelaide's and Melbourne's is to lose an Elimination Final.

We can break down each team's ultimate Finals fate in terms of where they finished at the end of the matching simulated home-and-away season and display it as per the chart below.

As we'd expect based on history, it's rare for a team to win the Flag from outside the Top 4.

We can also analyse this Finals data on the basis of how likely it is that a team wins the Flag given that they finished the home-and-away season in a specific ladder position. The data for that, for those teams most likely to finish in the Top 8, appears in the table below.

We see that, as we'd expect, teams are most likely to win the Flag if they finish in the Top 2, and more likely to win if they finish in the Top 4 rather than in positions 5 through 8. Also, Adelaide is more likely than any other team to win the Flag from any give home-and-away ladder finish.

Adelaide's estimated Flag chances of 38.6% imply that the TAB's currently offered price of $4.50 - the same as being offered for Sydney, Hawthorn and Geelong as it happens - represents considerable value. The same cannot be said for any other team's current price for the Flag

Lastly, let's take a look at the simulation's views on Grand Final pairings and victory probabilities for the teams in those pairings.

According to the simulations, an Adelaide v Sydney Grand Final is the most likely, that pairing occurring in almost 18% of all replicates. When those Grand Finals were, in turn, simulated, Adelaide won just over 64% of them.

The next most likely pairing was an Adelaide v Geelong matchup, which turned up a little less than 16% of the time and had the Crows winning about 54% of the time.

Altogether, 37 different pairings occurred in at least one replicate, and these are all shown in the table at right. Just 14 of them, however, accounting for almost 97% of all replicates, each appearing 1% or more of the time.

Across those 14 pairings, MoSSBODS has it that a Sydney/Western Bulldogs would provide the closest contest, though an Adelaide/Geelong, Hawthorn/Sydney, or Western Bulldogs/GWS would also see only narrow favourites.

The least attractive pairing would be an Adelaide/GWS pairing, which MoSSBODS would rate Adelaide as 68% chances to win.

Given the probability estimates here and given current TAB prices, the only pairings offering value are:

  • Adelaide/Sydney at $6
  • Adelaide/Geelong at $7
  • Adelaide/GWS at $9
  • Adelaide/Western Bulldogs at $51