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Fixture: hits 'n' misses

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Front and Centre: 2014 fixture analysis

Our footy experts analyse the 2014 AFL fixture list and what it means for your club.

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There's a bit of something for everyone in the AFL fixture for 2014, and we're not just talking about the marketing and football departments of the 18 clubs.

If you take the view that the league, given the constraints imposed by broadcasting and venue contracts, does a reasonable job of making the schedule as fair as possible, you'd have plenty of evidence to back you up.

But if you like to whinge about fixturing anomalies, there's still enough material with which to work. And if you find something more sinister in what inequities do exist, there's a couple of handy conspiracy theories.

I'm not of the latter school of thought. But I do believe there's always going to be those clubs, however inadvertently, given a pretty decent start to their 2014 campaigns via the fixture, and others that seem to have been dealt a disproportionately tough hand.

Brisbane certainly fits the latter category, and coming after its coaching debacle, the exodus of five senior players and its prolonged boardroom stoush, it's at the worst possible time.

Tandberg

Our formula for assessing each club's fixture from a purely football perspective takes into account the five teams played twice, road trips, the home versus interstate side advantage and consecutive six-day breaks. And by that reckoning, the Lions have copped it in the neck.

In fact, by our rankings, Brisbane's draw is easier only than the top three teams of 2013 - Hawthorn, Fremantle and Geelong - a rough deal for a side that finished the season in only 12th spot.

The Lions play two of those three (the Dockers and Cats) twice, as well as another finalist in Richmond, and North Melbourne, which many expect to play finals in 2014.

Novice coach Justin Leppitsch could not have been dealt a much tougher hand.

Brisbane cynics might argue that the AFL has swung the big stick in annoyance at the Lions' post-season farce. Then again, the Lions, by our reckoning, had the fourth softest draw of 2013 given they had won 10 games the previous season, so the league could well take the ''swings and roundabouts'' line in response.

North Melbourne's turn might have come on that score, in a more favourable sense. The Roos were handed 2013's second-toughest fixture according to our formula. In 2014, they'll have the eighth best, with Geelong the only finalist they'll be playing twice.

There's little doubt, though, that Richmond has emerged in draw terms very well placed indeed. The Tigers, who did finish the home-and-away rounds fifth, play just one finalist from this year, the Swans, twice, and have return games against two of this year's bottom three.

Five of Richmond's six road trips are against teams that finished outside the eight, and its sole trip to Perth is against West Coast, which in 2013 managed to win just three of its dozen games at its Patersons Stadium home.

Essendon fans convinced their team was going to cop a less formal penalty for its involvement in the drugs scandal won't be appeased by the fixture.

The Dons have got four finalists twice and two lots of consecutive six-day breaks, plus a very tough start to the season in North Melbourne, Hawthorn, Carlton and Fremantle in Perth. But Essendon was seventh on this year's ladder in terms of points, and did beat the Dockers away.

In terms of opponents, it could well be Collingwood that has the toughest start to 2014.

The Magpies play three of the 2013 top four in the first three rounds, and five of the top eight by round seven, the other two clashes also against pretty decent teams in North Melbourne and Essendon. Nathan Buckley's new-look Pies, however, have a far friendlier run home.

On balance, Hawthorn has the toughest draw for a second year in a row. The Hawks play all three top four rivals from this year twice, and between rounds six to eight they have to cope with three six-day breaks in succession, the only team asked to do so.

But if we are forced to cope with an uneven draw, few would argue the toss on the best teams having the hardest rows to hoe.

And in 2014, that's generally the case. It's the top three from this year that have the three hardest runs, while the two easiest draws will go to sides that finished in the bottom four. Indeed, of the nine ''softest'' fixtures, eight have been handed to sides that finished outside the finals, with Richmond the lucky exception.

That's the score from a football perspective, anyway. Commercially? Well, that's a whole different ball game.

12 comments

  • 96,000 at an elimination final - A successful Richmond is good for business. Brisbane...mmmm, not so much

    Commenter
    Mr Pound Town
    Date and time
    November 01, 2013, 1:58PM
    • Spare us the conspiracy theories. In 2011 Richmond played all eight of the previous year's finalists in the first ten rounds. It's swings and roundabouts.

      Commenter
      Tyger Tyger
      Location
      Templestowe
      Date and time
      November 02, 2013, 2:42AM
  • What about Sydney? For a team that won the GF just over a year ago they have done very nicely. Only 11 interstate trips, the same amount as Hawthorn. How does that work? Some other non Melbourne clubs that haven't fared nearly as well in the past, have twenty interstate trips. Its a farce, they are very priviledged,

    Commenter
    Vicki
    Date and time
    November 01, 2013, 8:25PM
    • Vicki, could you tell us which teams have 20 interstate trips? I think if any team only had 2 home state games there would be justifiable screams all round. Remember, there are "only" 22 games in the season.

      Commenter
      Dreuxy
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 02, 2013, 9:37PM
    • Whaaa? Where did you get those numbers from? Hawthorn - by choice - has four little hops over to its second home in Launceston, to which the teams it is playing have to travel also, with three of those teams being West Coast, Brisbane and Gold Coast! On top of that it has five interstate trips to other teams' home grounds - pretty standard fare for a Victorian side. The non-Victorian teams, by contrast, generally play around ten interstate games (varies a bit because some teams buy and sell home games) EVERY YEAR.
      For instance, the greatest furphy in football is that the WA sides have a great "home ground advantage". In fact they travel ten times a year with the shortest trip being the three hours to Adelaide and the longest almost twice that to Brisbane. That's basically a day lost to travel every fortnight once you take into account transit time. Contrast that with Collingwood's fixture next year: FOURTEEN games at the G, three at Etihad and five interstate. Victorian teams and their fans should NEVER whinge about fixtures.

      Commenter
      Tyger Tyger
      Location
      Templestowe
      Date and time
      November 04, 2013, 3:45AM
  • Rohan's system gives a very high weighting to playing the better teams twice. For example, is playing the Hawks twice worth 10 additional points of difficulty compared to playing Adelaide twice? As the total points for the team with the most difficult draw is 89, this example of 10 points of added difficulty gives more than a 10% weighting for one game. Does one game really add more than 10% of difficulty to a team's draw for the whole year? It is also arguable that more points should be awarded for long haul travel. The two Perth teams get 20 points for this in total, compared to a range of 7-11 points for the Melbourne clubs. Does this sufficiently reflect the travel burden for the Perth teams. I suspect not. The point awarded for 6 day breaks could also be adjusted. The number of 6 day breaks varies by team but this is not reflected in Rohan's formula. A better way of doing it would be to award 1 point for each 6 day break; 3-4 points for 2 in a row; and 5-6 points for 3 in a row. Another approach would be to have a somewhat different scale of points for 6 day breaks that took into account whether the break followed an interstate match the week before. For example, a 6 day break after a trip to Perth surely must be more difficult than a 6 day break after a home game. The formula approach is a good way of looking at the fairness of the fixture, but it needs some refinement.

    Commenter
    David
    Date and time
    November 02, 2013, 8:36PM
    • Yep. each team fixture has good bits and bad bits. But lets face facts. A team with a soft draw may make the finals. There chance of success in reaching and winning the grand final is zero. A team with a tough draw will struggle to reach the finals but be more likely to win the GF. There will be a few smokies in 2014 like Port this year. I flag melbourne as one with a new coach and the creation of a winning culture. Soft draw but focused and motivated players should see them between 7 & 10.

      Commenter
      GerryhK
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      November 05, 2013, 8:26PM
      • As a dogs fan I am pleased to see the draw turn for them and offer something to encourage the fans and young blokes. The past few years have been somewhat brutal (including short breaks and long travel schedules).

        I would like to see Connelly's ladder for the last 3 years, side by side. This will show the swings & round abouts to some extent.

        I am suprised the comments aren't full from screaming pies' fans!!!

        Commenter
        Aussie Jim
        Date and time
        November 06, 2013, 4:41AM
        • We at Pieland are happy with this draw, hard at the start, but nice and soft for a cosy ride home, we'll have to see if the new recruits can gel with our stars, but from where we sit 2015 will be a BOOM year, go PIES!

          Commenter
          dazpies
          Date and time
          November 08, 2013, 10:20PM
      • I have a cunning plan. 68 games over 3 seasons means each side can meet each other four times. The method? Season 1, 22 games plus the pre season comp. Season 2, 24 games with no pre season comp but a State of Origin comp played in September and October, great for those supporters whose teams don't make the finals or don't make it to the Grand Final. Season 3, repeat season 1, and continue the cycle. How fair is that?

        Commenter
        TerryinWODONGA
        Location
        WODONGA
        Date and time
        November 06, 2013, 4:19PM

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