Hovering around the eight: a serious look at how the Top 8 can finish

OR   How to maintain your nerves when, all around you, people are losing theirs

OR   Right now, I am too scared to wake up each morning.


Let’s be conservative, please, and believe in exposed form, rather than in miracles of the what-if, should-be or I-want kind. Let’s assume that for the next three rounds those in the top six will beat all teams below them according to Round 20 ladder positions.

That solves some problems.

It means that at the end of Round 23, we can lock in:

1. Hawthorn 18-4
2. Sydney 18-4
3. Geelong 17-5
4. Fremantle 15-7
5. Port 14-8
6. North Melbourne 14-8

 … give or take some sort of black hole upset, team management in the last round or, dare I even think this, used notes in brown paper bags changing hands.

The stress starts lower in the pack.

Let’s assume that Richmond and West Coast maintain their current brilliant form. Let’s say that Richmond beat Adelaide and St Kilda but lose to Sydney and that West Coast beat Essendon, Melbourne and the Gold Coast.

If this happens, the lower part of the ladder will be:

7. West Coast 12-10 [Who saw that coming?]
8. Essendon 12-10 [No comment.]
9. Collingwood 12-10 [And lucky to be this high]
10. Adelaide 11-11 [A perfect visual for Adelaide’s WLWLWL season]
11. Richmond 11-11 [Not good enough to make ninth this year]

… give or take percentage.

But, in Round 21, if Adelaide beats Richmond (which they can) and if Essendon beats West Coast (and why not?), the ladder will finish thus:

7. Essendon 13-9
8. Adelaide 12-10
9. Collingwood 12-10
10. West Coast 11-11
11. Richmond 10-12
12. Gold Coast 10-12

… give or take percentage.

Round 21 will shape everything for the also-rans. It’s the only noble part of the season for the dud teams – the only time, really, when the entire competition watches them with anything that remotely resembles admiration for their messed-up horrible seasons.

We all know, one week later, they will only be making up the numbers but, in Round 21, at least, this will be their moment of gravitational singularity.


In the extremes of winning and losing in our eighteen-team competition, the maximum numbers of games a team can win and still miss the eight, is fourteen. If, and only if, you eliminate draws.

You can work this out by understanding that if Team I wins 22 games, Team 2 can only win 21 otherwise they would be top. Team 3 can only win twenty and so on. If you extend this sequence to Team 9 in an ultimate top-heavy season, you’ll see that a team can win fourteen games and still miss the eight.

Inversely, the minimum number of games a team can win and still make the eight is ten. Say that Team 18 wins no games. Therefore, Team 17 has to win at least one game – otherwise, they would be bottom. Team 16 has to win at least two games and so on. If you extend that sequence for minimum wins in order to get into the eight, then Team 8 has to win at least ten games.

At the extreme edge of the maths, ten wins can get you in and fourteen may not be enough. The common footy understanding is that you need at least thirteen wins before you need to start planning for the finals but that’s a conservative or common lore approach. This year, because the first six is so top-heavy, we are closer to the extreme than we have been for some time.

Twelve wins might be enough, but it would be foolish for  any coach or any player to adopt this philosophy in the next three weeks. Only us pathetic fans need to know the extreme maths, in order to calm our fractured nerves.

On the other hand, there are more important things that some of us dwellers of the lower ranks should be worrying about than whether or not our team will make the eight.

Although, strangely, at the moment I can’t think of any of them.







  1. Callum O'Connor says

    Worst case scenario? Tigers beat Crows and Saints and finish ninth.

  2. Gregor Lewis says

    The future teeters on the edge of a ‘greatness’ blade for Hawthorn.

    JK, I like how you’ve simplified what is a fraught equation for the injury & perhaps suspension depleted, not to mention long-distance travel & curse and/or complacency afflicted Hawks over the last three weeks of the season.

    Only good thing is, Top 4 is virtually guaranteed for Hawks unless the arse really falls victim to the weight of expectations and ‘shit-sandwich’ situations … And Port go from ‘Emergency’ Power to ‘Jesus is Risen’ & finish with a wet sail.

    That’s the worst-case scenario … No pressure.

    On the other hand … Deep Atlantic Trench pressure can be found in playing the next three rounds to win.

    No matter what.

    It doesn’t matter that we’re playing a desperate, back in form Fremantle Away, for the first time in the Ross Lyon era. And the first time at Subi since 2011.

    But I didn’t need to say that twice …

    It doesn’t matter that we’re playing Geelong after blowing yet another Home-and-Away Season winning opportunity AGAIN, this year.

    It doesn’t matter that Collingwood will be playing for their lives against us to end the regular season, and came closest to beating us since 2011, earlier this year.

    If we want to be great, the Hawks have to play like none of that matters. Play. To. Win.

    That’s what I hope I see over the next three weeks.

    The ultimate introduction for the three September matches we should expect to play & win, in order to successfully defend our Premiership.

    There are lots of ways to opt out.

    JK, you’ve covered one of them.

    Hawks can only be Great if we accept winning is not enough.

    We’ve already made it to the promised land. We just have to decide if we’re gonna chase that greatness over the next seven weeks, or opt out & try to scrape by, through the numerous backalley laneways available to us I described above, over the next three weeks.

    Can’t wait to find out!


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