History says that you need to be in the top half of the ladder after Round 18 in order to be a legitimate chance for September action.
In fact, if you go by seasons past, it is by now that the ladder begins to take shape with only five matches remaining, but so much can still happen in 2017 and neither team, baring probably Adelaide, can safely say they’ll make the cut.
The team to qualify for the top eight from furthest back in recent years was Richmond in 2014, who managed to win nine of their past 10 matches that season to qualify. The Tigers were 12th from rounds 18-20.
It would take something spectacular for something similar to occur once again, but it is 2017 after all – a season where the team in 11th is only two matches off fourth and one match off fifth.
Right now we usually know our finalists and lower-ranked teams tend to play for pride, but we still don’t know anything and that’s the beauty of the season we are all assuming.
It seems the race for finals action is down to 11, but does history suggest otherwise? What trends of the past could incur in the next fortnight?
Crows firm as the premiership favourites
Right now, Adelaide sit atop the AFL ladder and have every week looked incredibly difficult to defeat. It’s safe to say that the Crows are the premiership favourites – and deservedly so – but it becomes even easier to say when you cast your eyes down the track. The Crows face the Pies in Round 19 in a fixture that should be penned in as a win. Obviously anything can happen and given Collingwood managed to scrape past a determined Eagles outfit, they should be given a chance against the ladder-leaders, but the Crows have a significant record against the Magpies of late. Simply, Adelaide have won their past four matches against Collingwood and have always matched up well against them. Add to that another four-game winning streak, this time against cross-town rival Port Adelaide, and if history repeats itself, the Crows are well on their way to cementing their spot on top of this unpredictable ladder.
One week they’re struggling, the next week they look the goods. Which Bulldogs outfit is going to turn up in the next two rounds? The Dogs face a red-hot Bombers outfit in Round 19 and it is a match where the winner could be the one to progress into September given the evenness in a group of teams positioned in the middle of the ladder. The Dogs have lost six of their past eight matches against the Bombers, and even though they’ve won in the past two meetings (when the Bombers were depleted), it could be a frustrating end to a frustrating year. It doesn’t end there though, the Dogs face the Lions at the Gabba in Round 20, a ground that the Dogs have not won at in eight years.
Stunning surge continues
No team has ever started the season winless after six rounds and qualified for finals. So while history technically is suggesting the Swans are zero chance, every man and his dog knows they are well on their way. The job doesn’t get easier for Sydney however, as they come up against the Hawks and the Cats in the next two weeks. They’ll be hurting after Hawthorn inflicted their last loss this year so expect them to be out for revenge. If they can get over the line there, the Swans will need to face up against the Cats at Simonds Stadium. Sydney will go in confidently knowing they have beaten Geelong four times in their last five meetings, which actually includes a win at that venue in 2016.
Like the tiger of old…
… They won’t be able to string these tough performances together. Inconsistency has plagued Richmond’s season so far and it’s set to continue in the coming weeks, according to history. The Tigers have not beaten the Cats since 2006 -11 years. And to make the stat look a lot worse, Geelong has beaten Richmond 19 times in the past 20 encounters between the two sides. Oh yeh, Hardwick’s mob have also lost their past two matches against the Hawks by 46 and 70 points. These aren’t healthy records for a team fighting for a top four finish.
Dees take a finals blow
A plethora of teams have their seasons on the line this weekend, and the Demons are one of them. Not that it would be a bad thing if North Melbourne were to finish on the bottom of the ladder, but a win against the Demons – which looks likely when you’re finished with the crystal ball – at least potentially puts them one-game clear of the wooden spoon. The Kangaroos have won their last 16 matches against the Demons. That is a huge streak.
Saints marching in the wrong direction
Another team with tons to play for, St Kilda have lost their past five matches against Port Adelaide and the last three have been by an average of 55.3 points. Their interstate record has really troubled them for seasons on end, and history hasn’t been broken for them this year in that sense. Put the Saints on a plane and their best footy is simply nowhere to be seen, evident given they’ve never won a game at Adelaide Oval and had a win-loss ratio of 7-21 at Football Park. Vying for that top eight, the Saints also struggle against the Eagles having lost the past eight matches against them. A tough two weeks coming up for a young up and coming side; a finals contender.