To recap here is how my assessment is done: a club’s draw is rated by summing up over every match the ranking points of its opponents as determined by my end-of-season AFL Power Rankings, while adjusting for net home ground advantage.
This means the rating for each club’s draw is in effect the result of three components:
- The effect of not playing your own club: If every club played each other the same amount of times the best club would have the easiest draw and the worst club would have the hardest.
- Net home ground advantage: This is the net effect of the adjustments for home ground advantage across the season. Not playing your home matches interstate helps out here, as does playing clubs from out-of-town.
- The effect of which clubs your club plays twice: This is the collective strength of the opponents that each club plays twice. A higher rating for this component means that you have easier opponents in your return bouts.Putting that all together, the easiness/difficulty of each AFL club’s draw in 2016 is shown in the table below, ranked from easiest to hardest:
And the winners of this year’s fixture are … the Gold Coast Suns. The Suns have relatively easy return bouts, playing Brisbane, Essendon, Melbourne, and GWS twice, with only Fremantle expected to be a tough return engagement.
After years of tough draws Geelong’s can look forward to an easy fixture in 2016 after missing the finals for the first time in nine years. The Cats also get Brisbane, Essendon, and GWS twice, and as always, are considered here to be helped by playing some Victorian clubs down in Geelong.
Port Adelaide, Carlton, and St. Kilda should also be pleased with their fixtures. Essendon should be pleased about which clubs it plays twice, but less pleased about the number of times it travels interstate compared to the number of times it hosts out-of-towners.
At the other end North Melbourne is rated as having the hardest draw, slightly ahead of Adelaide. North Melbourne’s chief executive even admitted to the difficulty of North Melbourne’s fixture, though it is not helped by the Kangaroos playing some home matches in Tasmania. Adelaide, meanwhile, has the toughest return matches against clubs, playing West Coast, Fremantle, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, and Geelong twice.
Reigning premier Hawthorn also has some tough return engagements, playing West Coast, North Melbourne, Sydney, and Richmond twice. But as has been the case for the past few years Hawthorn’s biggest advantage is that it does not have to play Hawthorn. That puts it from having one of the hardest draws to one that is rated somewhere in the middle.
Note again though that the difference between the easiest draw and the hardest draw averages out to about a goal a match. Surely North Melbourne can easily make up that difference with Gold Coast, can’t they?