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- Essendon are back in the top eight and have the softest draw to come of any other AFL club.
- Out-of-sorts reigning premiers Geelong must negotiate the hardest block of matches.
- Western Bulldogs and St Kilda get to face five bottom-four clubs in the run home.
Don’t show Brad Scott this.
Essendon’s first-year coach tempered finals expectations in the pre-season, and was at pains after their 50-point defeat of lowly West Coast last week that they had no right to think any game would be a cakewalk.
Nic Martin, Matt Guelfi and everyone at Essendon are enjoying their resurgence.Credit: AFL Photos
So, it is probably the wrong time to reveal the resurgent Bombers will start round 12 in eighth place and with the easiest rest-of-season draw of any club, according to Champion Data, starting with second-from-bottom North Melbourne on Sunday.
It is the type of launching pad that could put Essendon in a position to end their infamous drought without a finals win, which goes back to 2004.
The news is not so good for reigning premiers Geelong, who have the hardest remaining fixture, after losing three straight matches for the second time this year. Scott’s twin brother, Chris, probably won’t like this either.
“Let’s be honest, we haven’t been the best team in the comp over the last 10 years,” Bombers coach Scott said.
“I don’t think anyone has the right to think they can just turn up and get the result, but certainly not us. Every game is a hard game for us.”
Essendon face only two clubs currently in the top four in the run home – Port Adelaide (MCG) in round 16; and Collingwood (MCG) in round 24 – while meeting the Kangaroos twice and the Eagles again, at Marvel Stadium.
Champion Data’s formula is based on clubs’ points for and against, so effectively their percentage, then averaged out by differential on their opponents for the rest of the home-and-away season matches.
For example, last-placed West Coast are averaging 62.5 points for and 114 against, making them a minus 52 once it is rounded up, whereas top team Collingwood are a plus 23. Melbourne, who have a league-best percentage of almost 134, have the highest rating of plus 26.
The Bombers’ average opponent differential score coming up is minus 6.1, with fellow finals contenders Adelaide (-5.8), Western Bulldogs (-4) and St Kilda (-2.8) having the next-friendliest draws.
Only the Dogs and Saints get to play five bottom-four sides each in their remaining clashes.
The 10th-placed Cats, who already had history against them after dropping their first two matches, are the sole club that must play against five top-four rivals in the final 13 rounds. They are Port Adelaide (Adelaide Oval) in round 14; Melbourne (GMHBA Stadium) in round 15; Brisbane Lions (Gabba) in round 19; Port Adelaide (GMHBA Stadium) in round 21; and Collingwood (MCG) in round 22.
“It’s hard to forecast the future, but there will be a lot of clubs [fighting for a finals spot], and I think it’s pretty tight, so what would it look like if we started to panic and worry about the win-loss?” Geelong coach Chris Scott said.
“I think the next step from there is poor decision-making because you’re feeling the pressure of a tight competition. That’s exactly the opposite of what we’re aiming to do.”
Last year’s other grand finalists, Sydney, have the same unenviable 5-6 win-loss record as the Cats, albeit with a far inferior percentage – and have the fifth-toughest run of matches to end the season.
Port Adelaide have the hardest stretch of games among those in the race for an all-important top-four berth.
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