An Unofficial Guide to Gig’s Ladder Ladder Comp

An Unofficial Guide to Gig’s Ladder Ladder Comp


PART I – Mid-February

Gigs’ comp is a rare thing. There’s an odd tradition in the AFL stats world that defines the season’s ladder by the finishing order at the end of Round 23.

Gigs is one of the few people in the world, apart from myself, who believes that for eight teams (and for all tipsters) the end of Round 23 is only the end of the beginning of the contest. His comp – to correctly predict the finishing order of all teams after the grand final – is the only meaningful measure of the season.

When we were making the first Footy Almanac in 2007, I constructed the post-finals ladder to be included in the appendices. That is, I made the real ladder for the season which was the correct finishing order of the teams. Editor Harms didn’t like that and asked me to remove it.

“The ladder is only about the minor rounds,” he said.

I didn’t understand what he was talking about but, reluctantly, I have to admit that he was right then and is still right today. When you google 2014 AFL ladder, you only get the ladder at the end of the minor rounds.

Is this oddity a particularly Victorian thing?

The closest I managed to get to The True Ladder was this dated explanation on the AFL site on how the post-finals order is established:


Using the Round 22 ladder ranking principle, clubs eliminated in Week One of the finals are declared seventh and eighth.

Those eliminated in Week two finish fifth and sixth.

The losers of the two Preliminary Finals are ranked in a similar method eg) Adelaide and Collingwood are eliminated from the two Preliminary Finals; Adelaide finished above Collingwood on the ladder after Round 22, therefore the Crows finish 3rd and the Magpies 4th.

There’s no 2010 and onwards explanation, presumably because no-one has bothered to upgrade 22 Rounds to 23 Rounds where bizarrely, clubs play 22 games spread over 23 rounds. Even more bizarrely, I haven’t been able to find a post-finals ladder on the web. I’ll take this up with John for the Footy Almanac 2015 edition. If no one else publishes this finishing order, we should.

In the meantime, using the 2009 rules, here is the 2014 AFL Finishing Order with minor round ladder positions in brackets:

1            Hawthorn (2)

2            Sydney (1)

3            Port Adelaide (5)

4            North Melbourne (6)

5            Geelong (3)

6            Fremantle (4)

7            Essendon (7)

8            Richmond (8)

9            West Coast

10            Adelaide

11            Collingwood

12            Gold Coast

13            Carlton

14            Western Bulldogs

15            Brisbane

16            GWS

17            Melbourne

18            St Kilda


Gigs’ comp is the best tipping comp going around… on many fronts. To start with, it’s the hardest and you only have one shot at it. You have to get the finishing order before the first ball is bounced in Round One. There’s no real information to work with – it is sheer prediction based upon the results of the past which, as any non-conservative understands, is notoriously unreliable.

The world simply doesn’t repeat.

In this comp, you score a point for every position on the ladder you get wrong for each team. Low scores win.

Gigs includes the outcomes for other years as benchmarks in this comp.

Season 2013 was 44 points off last year’s pace; Season 2012 was 68 points away and Season 2011, with 90 points, was in another paddock entirely. These figures show the volatility of the competition which some might present as evidence that the AFL’s desire to rotate club fortunes with the trade system and the salary cap is working.

Non-conservatives already know that the world is a different place every day and in every season.

The 2014 winner, Tom R, had a remarkable score of 16. That means he predicted nearly every team within one or two spots from their finishing order. Superb! John Harms came second – not that far away on 22. Equally superb!!

For the record, in 2014 I came equal seventh with 30 which I thought was highly commendable. That score would have won in other years. Was 2014 particularly predictable or are there some very smart footy scientists out there now?

It’s a hard tipping comp to win. On the other hand, it’s one of the easiest to enter.

You set your predictions in concrete in March and stand back and watch your predictions come true or, more likely, you watch them seem to dissolve in the first third of the season when the fair weather teams with soft draws and an abundance of rash youth turn your predictions upside-down.

Then the weather changes and injuries, reports and scandals muddy the pretty and the young. The midfield stayers start thinking about waking up. There’s an unexpected result which reveals cracks in the theoreticals; the coaches tear up their dreams and re-engage with reality … and a strange dud team strings together a series of wins while a Class A team trips over its bootlaces and the season starts to carve out a brand new shape.

And suddenly, late in winter, your dud autumn predictions aren’t that stupid.

Anyway, enough of this preamble. Given the sustained volatility of the AFL, the only way to attack Gig’s Ladder  is to take the previous season’s finishing order and work out which team will rise and which team will fall. And why.

It’s the only time in the season when ifs and buts and candy nuts have any use.

If, in 2014, Team X team didn’t have all those injuries, they would have made the finals.

If, in 2014, Player X wasn’t reported, his team would have made the eight.

If, in 2014, Team X team hadn’t sacked their coach, they would have had a chance.

If, in Round 21 in 2014, that single ball at the 24-minute mark in the last quarter had bounced the other way…

Here’s my first stab at a finishing eighteen. It’s Version I. There’s still a month to go. After the NAB Challenge is over, I’ll lodge another version.

1            Sydney

2            Port Adelaide

3            Hawthorn

4            West Coast

5            Geelong

6            Adelaide

7            North Melbourne

8            Fremantle

9            Gold Coast

10            Brisbane

11            Collingwood

12            Richmond

13            GWS

14            St Kilda

15            Carlton

16            Essendon

17            Melbourne

18            Western Bulldogs

Beat this, funsters!

* Search for Gigs Ladder at


PART II – Mid-March

West Coast and Adelaide revealed early cracks in the NAB Cup, not that the NAB Cup means that much. Maybe I was too harsh on Fremantle and North Melbourne in my first ladder. And maybe Essendon will only start four weeks or so after everyone else, which gives them plenty of time to come home with a rush.

The problem with Essendon

Let’s say that Essendon lose most of their first choice players for the first six games and lose those games against Sydney (R1), Hawthorn (R2),, Carlton (R3), Collingwood (R4), St Kilda (R5), and Fremantle (R6). You’d expect them to lose three or four of those, anyway.

By Round Seven, Essendon should be 0-6 and, arguably, three winnable games behind their expected pace. In other words, a six-week suspension might cost them a mere three winnable games.

Next, with their full squad on the field, they play North Melbourne (R7), Brisbane (R8), Richmond (R9) and Geelong (R10). Let’s just say they win these four. They’ll be 4-6. And then they play West Coast (R11), Hawthorn (R13) (again, so soon! … but after a week’s rest with their Round 12 bye),
St Kilda (R14), Melbourne (R15), North (R16) and Port (R17). They could win four of these six to be 8-8.

Next, they play five teams from six which finished out of the eight in 2014 – the Bulldogs (R18), GWS (R19), Adelaide (R20), Gold Coast (R21), Richmond (R22) and Collingwood (R23). This is the softest imaginable run home that anyone could have constructed for Essendon.

With this draw, it’s not a bizarre idea to suggest that Essendon could finish the minor rounds at 14-8 and anywhere from fifth to eighth. Which reminds us, of course, of season 2013 when Essendon did finish 14-8, and technically seventh, but were relegated to ninth as the first team punishment for bringing the game into disrepute over the drugs saga.

It’s almost as if the Fixture Committee constructed Essendon’s 2015 draw to hurt them hard in the first half of the season, maximise and minimalise their damage in the same pass, but still give them a chance to be a maker or breaker in the finals. Is this a good or bad decision for the comp? Oh, I don’t know or care that much. Others can discuss.

There’s another factor about the looming Essendon suspensions that are relevant to Gig’s Ladder Comp.

Injuries hurt clubs. Short-term injuries (four to six weeks) can upset team balance not only for four or so games when the injured player can not only not play, but nor can he train. And, when an injured player returns, the team has to readjust its structure to enable the recovered player to fit into team plays without destroying the new structure that had been created in his absence. A four-week layoff for an essential playmaker can have a ten-week effect. It can cripple the Plan, create other problems and stymie an entire season with subsequent wrong decisions.

Suspensions are a different matter. Often, suspensions are useful for those players who aren’t fit or those who have an attitude problem which can be contributing reasons for their suspension in the first place. Two or three weeks in the cooler can give a serially troubled player a chance to get his game together, realign his mojo and come back to the battle better prepared to enhance the team thing that has developed during his absence.

In Essendon’s case, if the guts of their team is suspended for four to six weeks at the beginning of the season, they’ll continue to train together – even if it’s at dawn at a substandard oval at Second Chance High somewhere in the suburbs. The group will develop a fierce everybody-hates-us-but-it’s-not-our-fault mentality and they’ll come back to the fold in Round 5 or 7, or whenever, as an angry mob with a huge point to prove to anybody who wants to hear it. The coach could almost take that week off. All that coach has to do is coordinate the existing team motivation, rather than think he has to manufacture it.

The Essendon problem bothers me. I’m revisiting my 2015 End-of Season Ladder, with previous predictions in brackets.

1            Sydney (1)

2            Port Adelaide (2)

3            Hawthorn (3)

4            North Melbourne (7)

5            Brisbane (10)

6            Geelong (5)

7            Essendon (16)

8            Fremantle (8)

9            Gold Coast (9)

10            West Coast (4)

11            Richmond (12)

12            Adelaide (6)

13            Collingwood (11)

14            Carlton (15)

15            St Kilda (14)

16            Melbourne (17)

17            GWS (13)

18            Western Bulldogs (18)

Mapping my 2015 predictions against the 2014 Finishing Order gives me a volatility factor of 39. Which is in the ballpark but may be excessive. It feels excessive. My biggest movers are:

Brisbane +10

Richmond -4

Gold Coast +3

Western Bulldogs -4

St Kilda +3

And most others shifting around by 1 or 2. Brisbane’s season could make or break me. I should be more conservative there. I’ll have to revisit Brisbane in Part III.

And if Adelaide beats Port in NAB Challenge this week, when both teams will be at full strength and will both want to prove something in the two-team town, I might have to think about their problems as well.


  1. Thanks for the very kind words about my ladder competition, John. I love reading the ladders and comparing them as they arrive throughout March, and then watching mine slide quickly towards the bottom of “ladder ladder” once the season starts!

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