Top 8 already decided?
Six rounds into the season and the general consensus is that although the premiership race is wide open (with 8 obvious contenders), the Top 8 may already be settled! So is this backed by the numbers? Let’s take a look.
Season to Date
There is good reason for the view that the Top 8 may already be settled based on evidence from the season-to-date. Since Round 1 when Melbourne upset GWS (just!) – a current side from the Top 8 has not lost to a side currently outside the Top 8 to build an imposing 25 & 1 record over the 2016 season.
Round 7 Teams
Is the talent there even if the performance is not? Nope, not this week – based on Round 7 teams – the current Top 8 are close to the most talented teams (TBP Team Rank - based on sum of individual TipBetPro Player Rankings) with only Port sneaking ahead of the Dogs. Talent is only half the equation, restricting the talent of the opposition is also crucial – once again the current Top 8 stand out on that measure with only Hawthorn (9th) replaced by St Kilda (8th) on the Team Defence Rank measure (and we don’t have a high likelihood of the Hawks missing the 8!)
So the Top 8 have dominated the rest throughout the season to date and for all intents and purposes currently have the best players and the best team defence - so it's all settled right? Well not quite … the one variable is who is currently missing – when they’re back and who might get injured going forward? It should come as no surprise that the teams near the bottom of the ladder have been those hardest hit by injury/suspension so in many cases there is good reason for their struggles.
So – what’s our call? Can any of the sides from outside the Top 8 make finals? This is our view.
Fremantle – 0-6 & long term injuries – they’re gone.
Essendon – Supplement scandal ended their season before it started
Brisbane – Back at near full strength now so performance is improving – but very much a development team
Carlton – Have been near full strength most weeks and only wins have been against bottom two sides. Still in development.
Collingwood – Long term injuries to Swan, Williams and Elliott have reduced the Pies squad ranking considerably. With none due back soon, hard to see the Pies making the Top 8.
Richmond – Team is ranked only narrowly outside Top 8 teams (in 10th) even when missing two of their Top 5 players in Rance and Cotchin so upside suggests they are a potential top 8 team. However it is a long way back from 1 & 5. Need a win against Hawks or Swans in next two weeks.
Gold Coast – 3&0 has quickly turned to 3&3 and their depth is poor as demonstrated by their squad rank this week of 18th in the comp. Soft draw is only thing in their favour.
Melbourne – The only team to have beaten a Top 8 side but there is not much upside there (have been one of the least impacted sides by injuries thus far) so if Melbourne aren’t currently in the Top 8, it is hard to see them breaking in.
St Kilda – If a team was to surprise we see the Saints as one of the best contenders. Team defence is Top 8 worthy and talent isn’t too far off the mark. Have enjoyed a good run with injury though and can’t afford to not have their best players out there.
Port Adelaide – At their best the Power is a Top 8 team (even with their best player, Robbie Gray, out they are ranked 8th on squad talent this week) and they haven’t enjoyed a great run with injury so far. At 3&3 and with a soft couple of weeks ahead the Power are not out of the finals race and we see them as the stand-out best contender to sneak into the Top 8 should one of the current Top 8 slip up.
What do you think? Can any of this lot make the finals? And who drops out? Would love to hear your view.