An unbelievable race for the eight just keeps getting closer, with six teams split by half a game and three still lurking behind them. Plus the door is ajar for a side to steal second.
This is The Run Home, where Foxfooty.com.au analyses every club’s remaining fixture and tries to predict how the rest of the year will play out.
Which teams could take advantage of an easy draw to climb the ladder, and which clubs could tumble down the table based on a tough run of games?
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How do the Run Home projections work?
To predict the ladder, we tip the likely winner of each game on a percentage chance basis, and then use those odds to give each team a projected win total.
For example, we might say two teams each have a 50 per cent chance of winning a very even game. So they’d each get 0.5 projected wins for their total. That’s why almost all teams have a projection that’s not a round number.
It’s all about probability, and it’s more accurate than trying to tip wins and losses, because no-one can tip nine every round. It also means the predicted win totals are naturally conservative at the top, and optimistic at the bottom – and it’s hard for teams to catch up to sides who are multiple wins ahead of them (which is a fair reflection of reality).
Think of the projected win totals as the average result if you played the season out 100 times.
PROJECTED WEEK 1 OF FINALS
First Qualifying Final (1st hosts 4th): Collingwood vs Melbourne at the MCG
First Elimination Final (5th hosts 8th): Western Bulldogs vs Richmond at the MCG
Second Elimination Final (6th hosts 7th): Geelong vs GWS Giants at the MCG
Second Qualifying Final (2nd hosts 3rd): Port Adelaide vs Brisbane Lions at Adelaide Oval
PROJECTED FINAL LADDER
1. Collingwood (19.1 projected wins)
2. Port Adelaide (16.9)
3. Brisbane Lions (16.1)
4. Melbourne (15.25)
5. Western Bulldogs (13.15)
6. Geelong (12.45)
7. GWS Giants (12.2)
8. Richmond (12.1)
9. Carlton (12)
10. Essendon (11.95)
11. St Kilda (11.8)
12. Sydney Swans (10.9)
13. Adelaide Crows (10.85)
14. Gold Coast Suns (10.4)
15. Fremantle (9.65)
16. Hawthorn (6.8)
17. North Melbourne (3.8)
18. West Coast Eagles (1.55)
Below, all 18 clubs are listed and analysed in the current ladder order.
Remaining fixture difficulty is calculated using the average percentage of remaining opponents. This naturally advantages teams with a strong percentage themselves (because they can’t play themselves) and vice versa, but is a basic metric of how tough the remaining fixture is.
KEY TALKING POINTS
– Collingwood will be the minor premier;
– The race for second is back on, with Brisbane ready to pounce if Port Adelaide slips up in the Showdown or in Geelong over the next two weeks, though the Lions still have to fly south to face the Magpies again. Even Melbourne is lurking if both stuff it up;
– With six teams divided by half a game, plus Essendon another half game back (with games left against West Coast and North Melbourne), the race for the bottom half of the eight is complicated yet simple; win three of your last five (to reach 13 wins or 12 and a half), and you should play finals;
– The Western Bulldogs and Geelong are still best-placed to make it, GWS has form on its side and Carlton has form plus a great percentage, while Richmond’s percentage could yet cruel it and St Kilda is completely unconvincing. Those first four are the most dangerous of the sextet;
– Sydney and Adelaide aren’t out of it, but they need to win four of five, and hope the teams above them beat each other up;
– Gold Coast and Fremantle are not mathematically eliminated, but realistically done.
Elliott fires final nail in the coffin! | 00:38
1. COLLINGWOOD (16-2, 136.5%)
Round 20: Carlton at the MCG
Round 21: Hawthorn at the MCG
Round 22: Geelong at the MCG
Round 23: Brisbane Lions at Marvel Stadium
Round 24: Essendon at the MCG
Remaining fixture difficulty: Sixth-hardest
The Magpies aren’t losing three of their last five, so they will win the minor premiership. Their only issue now is whether the finals bracket works against them – they’d probably rather force Port Adelaide or Brisbane on the road for a qualifying final than face Melbourne. But it’s a luxury to be able to make such a complaint. They’re not a distant No.1 seed, but because their path to the flag will go through the MCG, they’re sure as hell the favourite.
Fox Footy’s projection: 19.1 wins, finishing 1st
Rioli the target of racial abuse | 00:58
2. PORT ADELAIDE (14-4, 113.7%)
Round 20: Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval
Round 21: Geelong at GMHBA Stadium
Round 22: GWS Giants at Adelaide Oval
Round 23: Fremantle at Optus Stadium
Round 24: Richmond at Adelaide Oval
Remaining fixture difficulty: Ninth-easiest
The Power should’ve won on Saturday night; unfortunately 2023’s best close game team ran into 2022’s best close game team, and eventually the Magpies’ devil magic worked. While it again proves Port Adelaide is a genuine threat, it does mean they’re at risk of losing second spot on the ladder, in combination with Brisbane’s win over Geelong. This is where their percentage hurts them. The next two weeks are massive with the Power much more likely to slip up against the Crows or Cats than the Lions are against the Suns or Dockers. If they do, Ken Hinkley and co. would be looking at Brisbane’s game against Collingwood in Round 23, hoping the Pies can knock the Lions back down into third. Either way it’s a big five weeks coming up, because Port’s chances of making the Grand Final (and probably getting a third shot at Collingwood) would be much higher with an Adelaide Oval qualifying final as compared to a Gabba one.
Fox Footy’s projection: 16.9 wins, finishing 2nd
Lions horror blow as Ashcroft hurts knee | 00:41
3. BRISBANE LIONS (13-5, 130%)
Round 20: Gold Coast Suns at Heritage Bank Stadium
Round 21: Fremantle at Optus Stadium
Round 22: Adelaide Crows at the Gabba
Round 23: Collingwood at Marvel Stadium
Round 24: St Kilda at the Gabba
Remaining fixture difficulty: Eighth-hardest
The devastating Will Ashcroft news is probably the biggest fallout from the weekend for the Lions, as it weakens their midfield just at the time they were really shaping as a true contender, but at least their hopes of pinching second and a home qualifying final were raised. Get the job done against the Suns and Dockers, and there’s a real chance they’ll be up into second, with Port Adelaide facing a tricky fortnight of the Showdown and then Geelong away. From there, it may be that four more wins (and a 17-6 record) is enough to hold on, but if the Power then hold their nerve it should come down to Round 23’s trip south to face the Magpies. That game could both tell us the Lions are a genuine premiership threat and set them up for a top-two finish… or ensure they’ll have to do it the hard way in September, with a trip to Adelaide in week one, and then probably Collingwood in a prelim.
Fox Footy’s projection: 16.1 wins, finishing 3rd
Lions survive thrilling Cats fightback! | 02:21
4. MELBOURNE (12-6, 123.7%)
Round 20: Richmond at the MCG
Round 21: North Melbourne at Blundstone Arena
Round 22: Carlton at the MCG
Round 23: Hawthorn at the MCG
Round 24: Sydney Swans at the SCG
Remaining fixture difficulty: Fourth-easiest
And breathe. After surviving two frantic Crows comebacks in the space of a quarter, the Demons are effectively locked into the top four, virtually three games clear of fifth thanks to their percentage. They’ll still shape the eight over the next five weeks, especially against the Tigers and Blues, but otherwise the major question is whether they can climb any higher. In essence both the Power and Lions are two games ahead of them (again because of percentage), but second is at least attainable. We have to wonder a little bit whether they’re better off finishing third (with a qualifying final in Adelaide or Brisbane) or fourth (with an MCG qualifying final against Collingwood); the latter might be slightly preferable? But then you want to keep an eye on where Geelong finishes, and try and avoid a semi-final against them if possible. It’d probably be too hard to manipulate the result you want anyway.
Fox Footy’s projection: 15.25 wins, finishing 4th
Captivating Kozzie sets the MCG alight! | 00:43
5. WESTERN BULLDOGS (10-8, 106.4%)
Round 20: GWS Giants at Mars Stadium
Round 21: Richmond at Marvel Stadium
Round 22: Hawthorn at UTAS Stadium
Round 23: West Coast Eagles at Marvel Stadium
Round 24: Geelong at GMHBA Stadium
Remaining fixture difficulty: Easiest
With seven teams split by just one win, the margins to make the eight are incredibly tight – but among that group, we have the most confidence in the Bulldogs nabbing a spot. Friday night’s win over Essendon was critical, potentially eliminating a direct rival for their finals place and getting the Dogs that much closer. It’s always dangerous to assume, but we’re still assuming Luke Beveridge’s men will get the job done against the Hawks and Eagles; that means just winning one of their next two should get them to 13 wins, and safety. Lose the next two against the Giants and Tigers and they’re in strife, but in each we have the Dogs as favourites, so it’d be a big surprise if they dropped both.
Fox Footy’s projection: 13.15 wins, finishing 5th
6. ST KILDA (10-8, 104.7%)
Round 20: Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium
Round 21: Carlton at Marvel Stadium
Round 22: Richmond at Marvel Stadium
Round 23: Geelong at Marvel Stadium
Round 24: Brisbane Lions at the Gabba
Remaining fixture difficulty: Fifth-hardest
The Saints are doing their absolute utmost to be the least impressive top-six team this deep into a season in history. Losing to North Melbourne would’ve ended their year; instead we have to at least consider them for another week or two. Of course, if they win three of their last five, they’ll probably make it… but even with four more games in a row at Marvel, that still seems extremely unlikely. They’re just so yuck.
Fox Footy’s projection: 11.8 wins, finishing 11th
‘Respect’: Epic play sums up Bont | 01:28
7. GWS GIANTS (10-8, 102.2%)
Round 20: Western Bulldogs at Mars Stadium
Round 21: Sydney Swans at Giants Stadium
Round 22: Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval
Round 23: Essendon at Giants Stadium
Round 24: Carlton at Marvel Stadium
Remaining fixture difficulty: Fourth-hardest
A six-game winning streak has finally propelled the Giants into our projected top eight, but the margins are still very, very tight. As we’ve said for a while, their problem is that their draw just doesn’t let up. (Sunday’s win over the Suns was probably their easiest game left.) Compare their run to a team like Essendon, who still get the Eagles and Kangaroos again, and you can see why it’s such an unpredictable race. (Plus it’s going to be much harder for GWS to build percentage over the last five weeks, which could still really matter). They probably make it winning three of their last five (and definitely make it winning four), and they control their fate because they play so many teams around them. If they beat the Bulldogs, Swans, Bombers and/or Blues, they probably finish above them; but the opposite is also true, so those matches are absolutely massive. We could see them hosting an elimination final or missing the eight completely – they’ve got wide error bars.
Fox Footy’s projection: 12.2 wins, finishing 7th
8. GEELONG (9-8-1, 121%)
Round 20: Fremantle at GMHBA Stadium
Round 21: Port Adelaide at GMHBA Stadium
Round 22: Collingwood at the MCG
Round 23: St Kilda at Marvel Stadium
Round 24: Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium
Remaining fixture difficulty: Third-hardest
Saturday wasn’t a disastrous loss for the Cats, but it makes their slow start to the season more painful – those were the losses they should’ve banked to give themselves some breathing room. The premiers should still make the eight; they just don’t have the margin for error if they happen to stumble at home. Take the Collingwood game out for a second (it’s gonna be huge, and it’s winnable, but they’ll be underdogs); their most likely path involves beating three of the Dockers, Power, Saints and Bulldogs. They’re very likely safe with three wins, and definitely safe with four. Two or fewer though, and the Cats are in massive trouble.
Fox Footy’s projection: 12.45 wins, finishing 6th
In-form Blues dismantle West Coast | 02:45
9. CARLTON (9-8-1, 116.1%)
Round 20: Collingwood at the MCG
Round 21: St Kilda at Marvel Stadium
Round 22: Melbourne at the MCG
Round 23: Gold Coast Suns at Heritage Bank Stadium
Round 24: GWS Giants at Marvel Stadium
Remaining fixture difficulty: Hardest
We flagged last week it was likely Carlton would drop out of our projected top eight despite beating West Coast, and that’s exactly what’s occurred – essentially because Richmond and GWS’ wins were less likely. Just a reminder of how the projections work – because they’re based on probability, they’re trying to produce the most likely results, but they don’t take percentage into account. Essentially the projections say it’s more likely Richmond reaches 12 wins than Carlton does; but if both reach that figure, Carlton will be ahead on the ladder. We know it might be a little confusing. Let’s try and simplify it – if the Blues win three of their last five, they should play finals, especially if they beat the Saints and/or Giants. If they win four of five, they will definitely play finals.
Fox Footy’s projection: 12 wins, finishing 9th
‘The Curnow show’: Charlie kicks TEN! | 01:38
10. RICHMOND (9-8-1, 99.9%)
Round 20: Melbourne at the MCG
Round 21: Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium
Round 22: St Kilda at Marvel Stadium
Round 23: North Melbourne at the MCG
Round 24: Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval
Remaining fixture difficulty: Eighth-easiest
We were sitting at the MCG writing this Richmond capsule in our heads – their season is over, they threw it away, etc etc – before a frantic comeback which keeps them well and truly in the mix. They’re still going to need a little bit of help, because their percentage is going to hurt them against the Cats and Blues. All they can do is keep winning, and if they win three of their last five – most likely one of the next two, and then against the Saints and Kangaroos – they’ve got a very good shot of playing finals. It’ll just come down to which other teams are able to win three of five as well; they probably need to finish ahead of two of the Giants, Saints and Blues. They can hand the Saints a loss themselves, and then the Blues play the Saints and Giants, so that’s a couple of guaranteed losses amongst that group.
Fox Footy’s projection: 12.1 wins, finishing 8th
Tigers claw back to beat Hawthorn | 01:24
11. ESSENDON (9-9, 98.4%)
Round 20: Sydney Swans at Marvel Stadium
Round 21: West Coast Eagles at Marvel Stadium
Round 22: North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium
Round 23: GWS Giants at Giants Stadium
Round 24: Collingwood at the MCG
Remaining fixture difficulty: Third-easiest
Friday night’s loss to the Bulldogs was a brutal one, costing the Bombers quite a bit in the finals race, but they’re still a chance to sneak into September because of their draw. Those games left against the Eagles and Kangaroos should get them to 11 wins. But they almost certainly need to reach 13, which probably means knocking off both the NSW clubs – doable, but difficult. Really, those very winnable Eagles/Roos games put them in a similar spot to the teams above them – two or three must-win games that’ll decide their season – making up for the extra loss on the board. Ideally they’ll also build percentage in those games which could mean, in a scenario where everyone struggles and 12 wins can get you into September, the Bombers have a good percentage. They’d probably need to win those games by a combined 100-odd points to build it enough.
Fox Footy’s projection: 11.95 wins, finishing 10th
12. SYDNEY SWANS (8-9-1, 111.8%)
Round 20: Essendon at Marvel Stadium
Round 21: GWS Giants at Giants Stadium
Round 22: Gold Coast Suns at the SCG
Round 23: Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval
Round 24: Melbourne at the SCG
Remaining fixture difficulty: Ninth-hardest
They’re a chance, but the finals race is so congested that the Swans are further back than just one win. They either need multiple teams to keep stumbling, or to just keep winning – at least four of their last five. 12 and a half wins could be enough (especially given their solid percentage), and you can see a path there; but other than the Suns in Round 22, there are no easy games on this fixture. Essendon away and the Sydney Derby are both 50-50s, while we’d have the Swans as narrow underdogs against the Crows away and Melbourne at home, and they need to win at least three of those four. Could Round 24 be a mini elimination final for them as Buddy tries to stave off retirement?
Fox Footy’s projection: 10.9 wins, finishing 12th
Slick Swans remain in finals race | 01:09
13. ADELAIDE CROWS (8-10, 113.5%)
Round 20: Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval
Round 21: Gold Coast Suns at Adelaide Oval
Round 22: Brisbane Lions at the Gabba
Round 23: Sydney Swans at Adelaide Oval
Round 24: West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium
Remaining fixture difficulty: Seventh-easiest
While the Crows were valiant against Melbourne, they’re now a game and a half out of the eight, and in huge trouble. If they win out, their strong percentage probably still gets them into September, but that’s going to be very difficult. The more likely scenario would involve the teams above them stumbling and beating up on each other, allowing them to sneak in with 12 wins, but even then the Crows would need to either win the Showdown or beat Brisbane away (plus win the other three). The former seems way more likely than the latter – so just beat Port Adelaide, and then we’ll reconsider where they’re at.
Fox Footy’s projection: 10.85 wins, finishing 13th
14. GOLD COAST SUNS (8-10, 92.3%)
Round 20: Brisbane Lions at Heritage Bank Stadium
Round 21: Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval
Round 22: Sydney Swans at the SCG
Round 23: Carlton at Heritage Bank Stadium
Round 24: North Melbourne at Blundstone Arena
Remaining fixture difficulty: Seventh-hardest
The Suns are pretty much done, but we’re not officially ruling them out because they can still reach 13 wins. They’d simply need to end their nine-game losing streak against Brisbane… and then win away against two sides above them on the ladder… and then beat a red-hot Carlton. So, yeah. Pretty much done.
Fox Footy’s projection: 10.4 wins, finishing 14th
2023 Draft Class: Who is Jed Walter? | 03:15
NOT PLAYING FINALS
NEW: Fremantle would need to beat Geelong in Geelong (and win the rest of their games) just to reach 12 wins, which with their percentage almost certainly wouldn’t be enough. We’re willing to officially rule them out.
15. FREMANTLE (7-11, 88.1%)
Round 20: Geelong at GMHBA Stadium
Round 21: Brisbane Lions at Optus Stadium
Round 22: West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium
Round 23: Port Adelaide at Optus Stadium
Round 24: Hawthorn at the MCG
Remaining fixture difficulty: Sixth-easiest
Fox Footy’s projection: 9.65 wins, finishing 15th
16. HAWTHORN (5-13, 78.5%)
Round 20: St Kilda at Marvel Stadium
Round 21: Collingwood at the MCG
Round 22: Western Bulldogs at UTAS Stadium
Round 23: Melbourne at the MCG
Round 24: Fremantle at the MCG
Remaining fixture difficulty: Second-hardest
Fox Footy’s projection: 6.8 wins, finishing 16th
17. NORTH MELBOURNE (2-16, 66.6%)
Round 20: West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium
Round 21: Melbourne at Blundstone Arena
Round 22: Essendon at Marvel Stadium
Round 23: Richmond at the MCG
Round 24: Gold Coast Suns at Blundstone Arena
Remaining fixture difficulty: Second-easiest
Fox Footy’s projection: 3.8 wins, finishing 17th
18. WEST COAST EAGLES (1-17, 48.9%)
Round 20: North Melbourne at Optus Stadium
Round 21: Essendon at Marvel Stadium
Round 22: Fremantle at Optus Stadium
Round 23: Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium
Round 24: Adelaide Crows at Optus Stadium
Remaining fixture difficulty: Fifth-easiest
Fox Footy’s projection: 1.55 wins, finishing 18th
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