The Finalists of 2016: A Recent Historical Perspective

With a week to go before the Finals commence, what better way to spend some of that time than reviewing this year's crop of finalists and comparing them to those of recent years?

Let's start - a little unusually for me - with a few charts. They'll provide some context for the more data-dense tables to follow and, hopefully, tip in a little interest of their own.

The first chart covers the period from 2011 to 2016 and plots the offensive and defensive MoSSBODS ratings of every team as at the end of the home and away season of that year.

Teams labelled in green were finalists, the ones with the slightly larger typeface being the eventual Premiers. The red dot marks the average offensive and defensive ratings of the collective finalists and the teams labelled in coral were the ones to miss the finals

Looking firstly at some of the macro-features of this chart we can see that, as we'd expect, finalists tend to cluster nearer the top right of the charts, non-finalists nearer the bottom left. As well, the average rating of finalists appears to be relatively constant across the seasons (though more on this a little later).

Now, a few observations on some micro-features. Firstly, the separation of seven of the eight finalists in 2011 is striking, the straggler being the Essendon team, which finished 2011 in eighth spot with a percentage of exactly 100. Also notable is the positioning of Hawthorn across the seasons - always with a strongly positive offensive rating.

West Coast's high rating in 2014 is also a feature. They finished 9th in that season, just a game out of the 8, ending the season with a couple of games where they racked up large numbers of scoring shots. As well, Port Adelaide look a little unlucky in 2015, they too finishing 9th and just a game out of the 8 after reeling off a succession of high scores at the back end of the year.

The two charts that follow reach back slightly further in time, each spanning a unique six-year period. Please click on them to access larger versions.

I'll leave a detailed review of these charts to the interested reader and just suggest a few aspects you might want to consider as you compare and contrast the plots for individual seasons:

  • The spread of the points, which gives an indication of how even the competition was (at least by season's end)
  • The spread of the finalist's ratings, which, similarly, gives an indication of the expected evenness of the finals series
  • The slope of an imaginary line passing through the points, which gives an indication of the correlation between offensive and defensive strength in a particular season (for example, compare 2001 with 2005)

Now, on the topic of the expected evenness of the finals series, another measure of this would be the range of ratings of the participants, which is one of the metrics I've included in the table below.

On that measure, and looking just at the Combined ratings, the 2003 finalists were the most evenly-matched since 2000. In that season Sydney, who finished 4th, ended the home and away season rated +1.2, while the Minor Premiers, Port Adelaide were rated +4.9. The competition ladder at the end of the home and away season in that year had Collingwood in 2nd separated from Essendon in 8th by just 2 wins.

The range of Combined ratings in 2016 is considerably higher at 6.9 scoring shots (SS) though is still the 3rd-lowest in the period.

The average quality of the finalists is quite high this year (see the leftmost block of data) and continues a trend that began in 2011 for the finalists to have average Combined ratings of around +4 or higher. Bear in mind, however, that Combined ratings always sum to zero, so while it might be true that this year's finalists are relatively strong compared to, say, the finalists of 2002, it might equally be the case that the current crop of non-finalists is relatively weak. 

Lastly, the data on the right of the table provides the rating details of the Premiers and Runners Up in every season. In this data it's interesting to note that only one team (Geelong in 2009) have finished as Premiers having ended the home and away season ranked below 3rd by MoSSBODS amongst the finalists on Combined rating. 

Runners Up have come from a much wider range of rankings, though no team ranked 8th on Combined rating amongst the finalists has gone on to finish as Runner Up.