AFL 2021 Predictions: Simulating Every Club's Premiership Chances
Legendary US band Pavement once sang ‘you can never quarantine the past’, yet that’s precisely what the AFL will be doing in 2021 as it attempts to lock the horrors of last year away in an hermetically-sealed room.
The ritual of week-to-week games and the contemplation of a league devoid of footnotes and asterisks is sorely needed by an industry which thrives on routine and structure.
And while there’s of course no guarantee we’ll be able to move seamlessly back to our pre-Covid landscape, we can at least take comfort in the promise of some form of stability.
And what better way to do so than sinking our teeth into Stats Insider’s own AFL season projections. Let’s get to them.
SI Premiership Projection: 18.3%
Another off-season spent on the therapist’s couch, another re-commitment to taking on the big bad world of elite competition, holding on to the dream of breaking through in September... And perhaps avoiding Richmond in the process.
The additions of Jeremy Cameron, Shaun Higgins and Isaac Smith are immense, with the decorated trio added to a team good enough to take a 15-point lead into half-time of last year’s Grand Final. Will their moves be enough to take them over the edge?
SI Premiership Projection: 15.5%
The Tigers see Geelong’s Stats Insider premiership favouritism and internally growl at the estimation. Shooting for a fourth flag in five seasons, Richmond’s legacy has already been assured, it’s now just a question of how much icing they want to add to their tremendously baked cake.
SI Premiership Projection: 10.9%
No, the Bulldogs still haven’t won a final since their 2016 premiership, though in many respects their trade period felt like their biggest victory since. Not only were they able to hold on to their want-away midfielder Josh Dunkley, but they were also able to land Adam Treloar courtesy of Collingwood’s ‘everything must go’ sale.
There’s still plenty of structural problems for coach Luke Beveridge to resolve, but from a sheer talent perspective, the Dogs are more than capable of making a serious splash this season.
SI Premiership Projection: 10.2%
Two-straight seasons of regular season dominance have both culminated in rather meek September exits for the Lions, most recently mauled by the Cats in last year’s Preliminary Final. It was a demoralising loss for the rapidly-improved club, especially in front of their home fans. The low-risk additions of Joe Daniher and Nakia Cockatoo are exciting, however whether they’re enough to keep them in premiership contention remains to be seen.
SI Premiership Projection: 9.6%
The Power led the competition from pillar to post last year, ultimately taking the Tigers to within six points of their first grand final berth in 13 years.
After years spent in the wilderness, Port exploded in 2020, and in adding in Orazio Fantasia and Aliir Aliir to an emerging squad that’s kept its core together, the Power will feel they’re well placed to go a step or two better in 2021.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 47.1%
They’re building something seriously special at Moorabbin, with the club hoping their now 54-year premiership drought will end sometime soon. While the 2020 off-season wasn’t as explosive as the season prior, the club still managed to land Richmond’s Jack Higgins who’ll snuggle into a forward line headlined by Max King, a player shaping as a potential star of the game.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 45.3%
At this stage, the Blues are 47.8% chance of making the Finals, which is the kind of number the club would gleefully accept after missing 15 of the last 19 post-seasons. Last off-season the Blues were among the busiest landing a couple of stars in Adam Saad and Zac Williams, while they’ll be hopping to build on their 94.3 percentage which was the club’s best return in seven years.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 43.1%
This time last year Eagle’s fans were salivating at the prospect of Tim Kelly joining their midfield, and while the former Geelong star excelled, the same couldn’t be said for his new club who failed to secure a top-four spot for a second-straight season. A disappointing campaign ended with a humiliating Elimination Final loss to Collingwood in Perth, followed by a draft where the club’s first selection was pick 52.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 43.1%
Collingwood has been burning for some time, with last November’s massive fire sale only a prelude to the club being tainted by charges of systemic racism. Just how the Magpies put themselves together, both on and off the field in the wake of such turmoil will define their prospects in 2021 and beyond.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 42.5%
Like Carlton, the demons have spent the best part of the last two decades in the foetal position, yet like the Blues, seem to have found their inner chakra, and have designs on breaking through to Finals
The Demons finished hard last season, ultimately missing September by just half a game, while the addition of Ben Brown, coupled with the continued development of Clayton Oliver and Christian Petraccahas the club hoping they can make some serious noise this season.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 36.0%
The Dockers made some massive strides in Justin Longmuir’s first season at the helm, best reflected in club boasting the league’s fifth-best defence, while also turning in their best percentage (93.7) in five years. While the wins didn’t necessarily pour fourth, what did was some serious young talent. While Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra enjoyed breakout campaigns, Caleb Serong stormed to the club’s first Rising Star win in 12 years.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 36.5%
These aren’t your older sister’s Swans who spent about twenty years with their beaks pressed against the premiership window. Instead, these Swans are in a different life-cycle, one that’s looking to re-shape both its list and on-field identity.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 34.9%
Like Sydney, it seems like it was only yesterday when the Hawks were an indisputable league force, regularly dragging premiership cups back to Waverly. Like the Swans however, Hawthorn are negotiating this brand new world of not being the hunted, having too re-imagine both a list and playing style which might return the club to its more regular, dominant self.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 25.9%
Like Fremantle, Gold Coast’s progression last season wasn’t necessarily reflected in wins, but it was where their percentage and game-to-game accountability were concerned. Obviously so many eyes will be on the phenom that is Matt Rowell, however the Suns will only make further strides if some of the young talent around him also kicks on. While they still have the league’s least experienced list, seasoned veterans like Jacob Townsend and Rory Atkinshave been bought in to help in to assist the club in their efforts to qualify for what would be a first-ever September appearance.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 28.5%
The Bombers’s Tullamarine-based garage band has a new lead-vocalist in Ben Rutten who takes over from John Worsfold. While the Bombers two decades of futility have been well documented, and even made light of in some quarters, there's a sense of hope that that a new dawn has emerged, hopefully kicked along by last year’s draft where the club enjoyed three top-ten selections.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 24.7%
For some, this constitutes Stats Insider’s curve ball, with the Giants currently slotted in as the third-least likely club to win the flag. With that said, the Jeremy Cameron and Zac Williamsexits simply can’t be glossed over, nor can their 2020 face-plant which saw them contest the previous year’s Grand Final only for their cameo appearance to result in a tenth-placed finish. At some point the Giants unquestionable potential needs to be traded in for production, while for now, a host of clubs appear to have jumped them in the premiership queue.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 17.9%
It really couldn’t have been a worse debut season for new coach Matthew Nicks, who was unable to steer the club out of a ditch, with the club claiming its first-ever Wooden Spoon. Like North, the Crows have no choice but to throw their arms around its talented youth and hold on tight, with the likes of Riley Thilthorpe already providing sweet dreams for the Adelaide faithful.
SI Top-Eight Projection: 16.1%
Roos fans will be hoping that an injection of premium draft talent and new coach David Noble can help stem the bleeding for a club which who’s experienced the uncomfortable sensation of complete free-fall these past few seasons. While the departures of Shaun Higgins and Ben Brown will sting, and are indeed related to their near odds-on Wooden Spoon favouritism, an Arden Street rebuild has been a long time coming, and if done right, needn’t be so painful.
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