Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Fixture Countdown

There are only 9 more days until the AFL once again dominates the media landscape with the release of the fixture for 2015 (scheduled Oct 30... 5 days before some sort of a horse race, apparently).

Which of course means all the journos will be writing and tweeting about 'who got the best draw' and '[club] always gets a soft draw' and of course [club that never leaves the MCG] travels the least'.

If the AFL is to follow its proposed plan, we should see the schedule aligned so that the top teams of 2014 (Hawthorn, Sydney, Fremantle, Geelong, Port Adelaide and North Melbourne) play each other twice.
Those not so brilliant in 2014 are also proposed to play each other twice (Carlton, the Bulldogs, Brisbane, GWS, Melbourne and St Kilda), and the middle 6 also dance about twice too.

This is being pitched as producing a fairer result for teams, in that it will reduce blow-outs etc, as well as maintain interest in the season.

While having the previous seasons cellar dwellers not play powerhouses twice, but instead play among them selves looks fairer (on the day at least) it is entirely not a fair fixture. To be properly fair, each team should play against the same level of opponents every year. Ultimately, this is best achieved by the old 'play each other home and away twice' rule. But that is totally impractical in an 18 team competition.

Regular readers will know that we have proposed a [lengthy] scenario that is fair and transparent, and has teams play against similarly weighted opponents home and away (and against all others once) in a three conference system.

The key component is not the introduction of conferences, but the distribution on teams that competitors play against. As Troy Wheatley correctly points out in the comments on our previous post, the fairness factor in the model doesn't need the conference element.

A fair 2015 fixture would involve home and away games played between the teams in the three columns below, with additional games played against teams outside of that alignment.
6North Melbourne5Port Adelaide4Fremantle
7Essendon8Richmond9West Coast
12Gold Coast11Collingwood10Adelaide
13Carlton14W Bulldogs/FFC15Brisbane Lions
18St Kilda17Melbourne16GWS

Also as mentioned previously, this is an unusual allotment, given Geelong is the only Vic-based team n the last column. It therefore travels interstate 5 times.
This now becomes the benchmark for the future - all Vic-based teams should travel 5 times interstate.

So looking at the above, and taking a few teams at random, lets look at where those teams play.
First Geelong:
9West Coast5Port Adelaide9West Coast6North Melbourne
15Brisbane Lions12Gold Coast15Brisbane Lions11Collingwood
16GWS13Carlton16GWS14W Bulldogs/FFC
18St Kilda17Melbourne

The above shows a POSSIBLE fixture scenario. There are 11 home and 11 away games, with 5 of those away games interstate for this Vic-based club (italicized for easy reference). Also split such that the teams played twice are in the left column of each home/ away list.

Also, to round out the distribution, if you tally all the numbers under home or away, you get 111 (each of two)... so the level of competition Geelong faces home and away is the same.

And we can run scenarios for other teams in Victoria, along the same lines too.
St Kilda:
St Kilda
6North Melbourne5Port Adelaide6North Melbourne4Fremantle
7Essendon8Richmond7Essendon9West Coast
12Gold Coast11Collingwood12Gold Coast10Adelaide
13Carlton15Brisbane Lions13Carlton14W Bulldogs/FFC

Again, 5 interstate trips as italicized, and 11 home games. Again the numbers under under home or away tally up to be 96 in both. Balanced scheduling.
(yeah that 96 is different to the 111 for Geelong as obviously the teams own ranks are different).

And finally, lets look at Collingwood and give them 5 interstate journeys.
5Port Adelaide3Geelong5Port Adelaide6North Melbourne
8Richmond7Essendon8Richmond9West Coast
14W Bulldogs/FFC12Gold Coast14W Bulldogs/FFC10Adelaide
18St Kilda15Brisbane Lions

A neat 5 trips away to foreign lands to spread the Magpie love, and the balance in the schedule of all the numbers adding up to 103 in both home and away columns.

Now these three random selections were just plucked out and determined last night. It may not always work that you can balance out the numbers so well, but in this instance it is a good result.

And in the end... isn't that what the AFL should be striving for? 
Balance among teams and how they play.

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