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AFL season kicks off tonight… who will make 2016’s top eight?

The wait is finally over. Tonight’s first AFL game kicks off another big AFL season, and here are some stats on who is looking good this year.

Much has been said in the lead-up to the 2016 AFL season but Victoria University’s Dr Sam Robertson has taken a close look at which clubs are most likely to make it into the AFL top eight.

Dr Robertson, the senior sports scientist at the Western Bulldogs Football Club and a senior research fellow at Victoria University’s Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, has developed two models of match difficulty – based on their 2016 fixture – to look at who will do well.

Can the Hawkers do it again in 2016?

“It would take a brave person to suggest that the Hawks can’t make it four in a row in 2016 considering their only moderate average match difficulty – compared to the rest of the competition – for the season ahead,” Dr Robertson said.

“Adelaide, GWS and West Coast are going to need to be at their best in order to overcome the most challenging fixture.”

Dr Robertson said Geelong is also well-placed for a successful year given its easier run compared to 2015.

The models work by predicting both a margin and outcome for a given match, using fixed factors available in the lead up to the game.

Examples include the rank of the opponent from the previous year and the location of the match.

While the models don’t consider each team’s individual player characteristics and game style, Dr Robertson said they are a useful guide.

“Implementing these approaches within a performance context could allow for a much needed increase in the precision by which performance is evaluated,” he said.

Dr Robertson is available for interview.

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