Monday, 3 June 2013

Grand Old, Flagging

NOTE (4 Jun): Updated some ranking data to remove an error.

Melbourne in season 2013 is, without doubt, having a terrible year. A team that appears to lack drive and unity, with team selections baffling its supporters, and on field efforts that leave those who follow 'the team of the red and the blue' wondering why they bother.

On the weekend, they again succumbed to another big loss, to Hawthorn by 95 points. This brings their season total of 'blow-out losses' (60 points or more) to 7 matches out of 10. A regular tweeter to us then fired off this question, which we think warranted a bit of a look into.

So this post will have a quick look at Melbourne 2013, after 10 rounds, and yardstick them against the first seasons of the Gold Coast and GWS.
So lets start with some basics.

Lets start by looking at the basic wins and losses table up to round 10 for Melbourne this year, and the two expansion teams in their for year.

In this table, we can see that Melbourne have a a similar loss count to the GWS in their first season, and are getting more kicked on them once the margin reaches 60 points or over.
The Suns on the other hand, had less blow-outs by round 10, but when they did lose by 60 points or more, those margins were huge.

We believe using the rankings point system (which factors in the quality of the opposition) should provide a better assessment of where Melbourne are in relation to the two expansion teams in their debut seasons. Melbourne, of course, commenced the season at 767 rankings points.

With new teams starting from scratch, we have two ways to include them. First is to add in the teams with a low ranking that caters for the expected performance of a team of mostly young men that have limited experience of the pressures of AFL football.
In running our blog over the journey, we added in the Gold Coast and GWS at 500 rankings points as it created a more realistic tipping expectation. So using the teams at a 500pt initial set-point, we see the below.

This table shows that Melbourne are indeed having a horror run this year relative to the expansion teams by the same Round 10 assessment point.
Of course, as above, that assumed the Suns and Giants were ranked arbitrarily significantly lower than
other teams.

To redress this, there are two other ways to look at the data. First is to take the alternate initial ranking position for teams, that being the default 1000pts that all teams historically were set at

This allocation of points puts the GWS as having a bigger % and points drop than Melbourne, but the Gold Coast have a better record.
That said, it is hardly fair to allocate those teams the full allotment in their debut season, when they were so far under on experienced player stocks etc.

So the alternate approach is to  to rank Melbourne as an expansion team and allocate them 500pts at the seasons start, where do they end up.

Which is an even grimmer picture for Melbourne. If considered an expansion team, Melbourne's 2013 season is about the same as the Suns' first season, and about 1.6 times worse than the GWS.

None of the above data is good news for Melbourne in 2013, and will give the Demons fans no solace.
Is the above comparison fair? Perhaps not, but they are statistics, and people can always make of them what they will.
And under the focus of our microscope, they don't look good at all.

It is never easy to make comparisons of teams and their performances across the seasons. We tried once, comparing Melbourne in 2012 with Fitzroy in 1996.
In doing so, we saw there was no comparison statistically, as well as in the footballing environment surrounding the teams. As Roy FitzLion put it:
"The main difference between the Melbourne side of today and Fitzroy of the mid nineties is just a minor one.......THE AFL ISN'T TRYING TO FUCKING KILL MELBOURNE OFF!!"
Which is true (and for further on the culture that killed Fitzroy, at the foot of this post is a link to a Radio National audio documentary on Fitzroy's demise).


  1. I like the third method. Although one thought - if the average quality of teams is lower now than it was when GC and GWS started would that drag Melbourne's numbers down? What I mean is that when GC started it would have played no expansion teams, GWS would have played one expansion team, and Melbourne this year would have played two expansion teams (although GC is better than an expansion team now). Hence, I think the average ranking points per opponent might be lower now, and that might affect Melbourne's ranking points - would that be right?

    But that aside, there's enough to say Melbourne are basically still as bad as an expansion team.

    1. You are correct, Troy. Adding in of expansion teams does 'weaken' the field, as here:
      Avg ranking prior to 2011 (SUNS entry): 1070 pts
      Avg ranking prior to 2012 (GWS entry): 1047 pts (2.1% down from previous year)
      Avg ranking prior to 2013 season: 1015pts (3.1% down from previous year).

      Is this significant? Possibly marginally. But for Melbourne to have played two expansion clubs this year, and still regressed to that extent, then that should say more about just how poorly they are this season, No?

      Melb v GWS was a win for MELB by 41 (estimated 33) +2 rank pts
      Melb v SUNS was a loss for MELB by 60 (estimated win by 3) -29 rank pts

  2. Yes, I think it's a minor point - adjusting for the drop in quality of opponents might make Melbourne look slightly less bad in comparison, but I think it's safe to say they've regressed this season.