AFL 2020: So, Who Wants To Win The Premiership?

The 2020 AFL fixture is an improvised explosive device. 

Thankfully the number crunches at Stats Insider are expertly trained to thrive under such circumstances, and have emerged from within their blast suits with their thumbs up- and with updated season projections.

We’ve grouped the league's 18 clubs into three tiers starting with the ‘contenders’, moving on to the ‘pretenders’ and culminating with a group of three teams who float somewhere in between.

Let’s get to it.

RELATED: Understanding how Clearances Shape the Results of AFL Games

‘THE CONTENDERS’

These nine teams all have at least a 5% chance of winning the premiership, with all nine harbouring at least a 50% chance of playing Finals. 

PORT ADELAIDE

There are few teams in Australian sport more difficult to read than the boys from Alberton. They’ve spent all six rounds perched on the top of the ladder, which is saying something for a team without a single finals win since 2014. Important to note that all five of Port’s victims this season aren’t presently occupying a top-8 spot. 

KEY STAT- #1 in clearance differential at +6 per match, while also top of the pops where tackles inside-50 are concerned, averaging 13.2 per game. 

COLLINGWOOD

The Pies have regained premiership favouritism with the bookies and and only narrowly miss out according to our model. This is a club who can’t stop testing positive to controversy, yet have for the most part have got things together on the field, dropping just two of its first six games.

KEY STAT- In a season being defined by low-scoring, the Pies have the league’s very best defence, conceding just 43.8 points per game. Opponents are averaging only 34 insider-50’s per game against them this season which is also the best mark in the league.

GEELONG

With an 8 goal to 2 second half, the Cats got their biggest scalp of the year, overturning a half-time deficit against the previous premiership favourite, Brisbane Lions. 

KEY STAT- No one can score this season, yet the Cats are thriving, averaging a league-high 70.4 points per game with Tom Hawkins once again leading the way with 11. He’s also leading the club with 5.5 marks per game.

RELATED: See how Tom Hawkins compares across non-traditional metrics

BRISBANE

Something felt a little strange, perhaps unearned, about Brisbane’s premiership favouritism last week, and they promptly fell back to earth with the Cats running all over them to run out 27-point winners.

KEY STAT- Thanks to the human forcefield otherwise known as Harris Andrews, coupled with the team's tackling tenacity, the Lions lead the league with a +4.8 intercept possession edge on their opponents. Their 345 tackles on the season is also the league’s best figure.  

RICHMOND

No, these Tigers don’t exactly seem like the same team who've scorched the AFL’s earth over the last three seasons, yet it would be a brave person to dismiss their premiership bonafides. 

KEY STAT- Maybe the Tigers ought to go back to getting walloped in the clearances? Last year they won the flag with a -4.6 clearance differential. This year, they’re at -1.2 and clearly looking no where near as potent. 

WEST COAST

After one of the league’s most concerning starts, the Eagles have looked more like themselves over the last couple of weeks, beating Sydney and Adelaide by a combined 67 points and perhaps getting their season back on track. 

KEY STAT- West Coast have won the hit-outs in all six of their matches this season, and sit 2nd in the league with a +5.8 clearance differential with Nic Natanui leading the way with 5.8 per match. 

GWS GIANTS

The Giants are 2-3 since the league resumed and if the season stopped today, would not be a Finals participant. Yes, it’s a squad loaded with talent, however it’s one which struggles mightily for consistency. 

KEY STAT- The Giants haven’t won the inside-50 count this season and only the winless Crows are generating less than their 33.7 inside-50 entries per game. 

ESSENDON

The Bombers seem one of the most improved and best prepared clubs this season, losing just once, and by a solitary point too. 

KEY STAT- Speaking of improvement, has anyone upped their game in 2020 more than Andrew McGrath? The Toronto-born, 2016 first round pick is one of just 22 players averaging at least 22 touches per game, while he makes mince meat of that elite field when it comes to tacking, averaging 6.4 per match- the third best mark in the sport.

ST KILDA

Last week, the footy world were convinced the Saints were for real, this week they delivered their loyal supporters a punch in the guys. St Kilda blew a 7 goal to 1 quarter-time lead, ultimately falling to the struggling Dockers. 

KEY STAT- The Saints need to be careful when they don’t have the ball. They’re laying just 48.7 tackles per game which places them 12th in the league, while opponents are enjoying 189.5 uncontested possessions per match against them- the 4th worst figure in footy. 

‘THE PRETENDERS’

These six clubs have a less than 1.5% chance of winning the premiership, which the data guys suggest isn't very good. 

MELBOURNE

A return to the winner’s list thanks to a 17-point win over the Gold Coast Suns may well have breathed life into the Demon’s beleaguered season. 

KEY STAT- The following is a list of players averaging at least 23 touches and one goal per game- Brownlow medal favourite Lachie Nealeand Melbourne’s seriously improved, Christian Petracca

NORTH MELBOURNE

North fans might be entitled to being the most frustrated in season 2020. After winning their first two games, they’ve dropped 4 straight, averaging an abysmal 48.5 points in the process which is a number only Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney are fairing worse in. 

KEY STAT- The Roos haven’t had a halftime lead this year and rank 16th for tackle differential at -9.7.

FREMANTLE

Started 0-4, but have won two on the trot. Saturday’s win against the Saints was one of its finest in some time, rallying from a 36-point quarter time deficit to win by a goal. It’s the WA Derby this week to see if they can make it a hat-trick of wins. 

KEY STAT- With 8 goals on the season and averaging 21.2 touches per game, Micheal Walters is the only player in the league who is both his team’s highest goalscorer and most prolific ball getter. 

SYDNEY

The Swans look a shadow of their former selves, cobbling just two narrow victories on the season and against two minnows in the Adelaide and North Melbourne. They've averaged just 36 points over their last three games with stars Josh Kennedy and Isaac Heeney now joining their growing injury list. 

KEY STAT- You think the Roos start their matches badly? The Swans have won just one first quarter this season, dragging along a 51.7 percentage in the process. 

GOLD COAST 

The Sun’s scintillating start has diminished somewhat with back-to-back losses to Geelong and Melbourne, all dampened by the loss of Matt Rowell who could miss the entire season. A trip to the SCG to face the struggling Swans will provide great insight into how much they’ve improved this year. 

KEY STAT- They work damn hard, but the Suns are sloppy, committing a season-high 327 clangers on the season while their 69.6% disposal efficiency is the second worst figure in footy. 

ADELAIDE

The Crows problems are well documented, winless and now short price favourites for a maiden club wooden spoon. 

KEY STAT- Adelaide rank dead last for disposal differential, mark differential and clearance differential. If there’s something Adelaide are doing right, please let us know. 

‘THE IN-BETWEEN-ERS’ 

These three clubs are all 3-3, and with a premiership probability that neither condemns them, nor exactly has their fans thinking about a deep finals run.

HAWTHORN

The Hawks have had two big tests over the last fortnight against the Giants and Collingwood and failed dismally in both. They lost by a combined 66 points and seem as far away from genuine premiership contention as they’ve looked for more than a decade. It’s early days, but it’s simply a must-win against the Demons this week at Giants Stadium. 

KEY STAT- The list of players averaging at least 15 touches, 1.5 goals and 2.5 tackles per match includes...Chad Wingard

CARLTON

Without doubt one of the ‘feel good’ stories of the season pertains to Carlton’s sudden legitimacy. They're in the top-Eight for the first time in six years thanks to one of the most aggressive game plans in the league which left the Western Bulldogs for dead on Sunday. Up next, ladder-leading Port Adelaide to see just how far the Blues have come. 

KEY STAT- Carlton represent something of a throw back this season, sporting a truly shocking 1.90 kick-to-handball ratio that's putting defences under extreme pressure. For their efforts, the Blues are packing the league’s 4th best offence averaging 62.5 points per match. 

WESTERN BULLDOGS

Just when you thought the Bulldogs had got their ship back on course, they get blown to pieces by Carlton in slippery conditions at Cararra. They once again find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to a spot in the top-eight. 

KEY STAT- The Dogs have been beaten in the hit-outs in 46 of their last 50 matches.

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James Rosewarne

James is a writer and Managing Editor at Stats Insider. He likes fiction and music. He is a stingray attack survivor. He lives in Wollongong.

Email- james@thehypometer.com for story ideas or opportunities.

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