What’$ the point?

There was a lot of hype this year of it being the closest top eight for many seasons; up to six or even seven of the top eight could win the whole thing. No one had ever had to win 13 games to get eighth before. Geelong fans were talking up the possibility of winning four games in row to surely become the greatest team of all. Then Fremantle upset the Geelong apple cart and then the talk was of how both Collingwood and Adelaide could go out in straight sets.

I started thinking about the finals system; how we’ve been trained to think what a great system it is. I’d always thought that the EPL just finish on top and you won the whole thing was lame. Where was the excitement of the finals series?

However, we’ve ended up with the top four playing in the last four, just as we did last year and the year before that and the year before that. In fact 2007 was the last time a team went out in straight sets – but still 1 played 2 in the Grand Final.

So I did some research to see what actually happens and where teams win the Premiership from.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Current 8 4 6 2 0 0 0 0 0
Old 8 3 1 0 1 1 0 0 0
Final 6 0 2 0 1 0 0 – –
Final 5 10 5 4 0 0 – – –
Final 4 46 19 4 5 – – – –

So I want to ask the question – What is the point of making the finals down to eight? Of course money is involved,greater interest for fans at the end of a long season, TV rights. Only once since the eight started has a team won from below fourth and Adelaide lost their first game that year. But, to the supporters I would like to pose a couple of questions.

North Melbourne couldn’t get within 16 goals of the fifth team who lost the next week. Would it have better not to have made the finals? Is St Kilda in a better position for next year with an honourable ninth and a win over a fellow middle of the road team in the last round? Essendon supporters last year and a few years prior when they got belted by Adelaide, Was it worth finishing eighth and be belted or is ninth just as good? Have the Poms got it right – no finals?
I think the Grand Final is great, but is there any real point in having an eight? Should we just go back to a final four?

I’d love to hear thoughts, comments and opinions .

About Noel McPhee

Noel's background is in statistics including 13 years at the ABS. More recent employment has been at Deakin University and Services Australia. He has worked on every State and Commonwealth election this millennium plus a few Local Government Elections. His weekly article, 'The Stats Bench' appears in the EFL's football record - The Eastern Footballer. Noel's legacy as a sportsman is that he tried hard; two cricket fielding trophies, a tennis premiership and boundary umpiring about 80 EFL senior games.


  1. Looks like the formatting of my table didn’t come across. The numbers represent where the premiers finishef at end of home and away. Eg 46 times the team that finished first in the final four won the flag.

  2. Peter Schumacher says

    Couldn’t do without a Grand Final and hence the matches leading up to it. Perhaps though a final four the way it used to be would provide a better lead in..

  3. Andrew Fithall says

    As soon as you provide EPL as a comparison, I come down strongly in favour of the final 8. Not a soccer fan, I am certainly not going to defend their position, but the nature of that competition is that a quarter a way through the season, half the teams, if not more, have zero prospects of winning the trophy (many would say before the season even commences only a few team have any real chance). With the AFL final 8, there was a great deal of interest in who was going to make the finals through to the second last round. And yes – there was an expectation that a team from the bottom half of the 8 could go deep, but that wasn’t to be. Revert to the final 4, and the prospects of the majority of the teams will be dead a long way from home. If you would like an environment to encourage tanking, that would be one right there. EPL has relegation as the punishment for continued poor performance. The AFL has draft picks as the reward.

    Almanacker Nick Tedeschi has written (in an article that covers a lot of NRL topics – http://www.makingthenut.com/content/couch-finals-week-2-0) that this year the NRL has adopted the current AFL model for their final 8, having finally discarded the old McIntyre (1 st v 8th etc) system. For the first time since the NRL final 8 was introduced, the preliminary finals involve the top 4 teams. Nick thinks that is a good thing…and so do I.

  4. Jeff Dowsing says

    My opinion is the final 5 struck the best balance of providing sufficient reward for performances over the season without going so far as to render the finals too predictable.

    Problem is, when you have umpteen more teams in the competition and fulfilling TV obligations is king, the AFL will forever be compelled to keep the current system. And as long as it’s not producing unfair anomalies, as did the NRL’s just purged system (which the AFL had the sense to get rid of long ago), then there won’t be too many complaints from fans or clubs.

    ( I wrote this 2 years ago for Inside Sport on this subject; http://jeffdowsing.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/finals-insult/ )

  5. I think the final 8 works exactly as it should. The top 4 sides are given a deserved advantage, and the next 4 sides are given hope.

    And whilst sober post-mortems of statistics over prolonged periods of time may identify that the system appears too heavily in favour of top 4 teams, I have come to understand that footy is always about the now.

    People immerse themselves into the now; get lost in it. Yes, the results of the last two weeks have fallen the way that historical data suggested they would, but there was much excitement, anticipation, hope, expectation, discussion and debate leading into the games each week. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

    I’m often amused by how intense and earnest discussions are in the media each and every week about the state of a club, the security of a coach, the performance of a player, and how throughout a season, whilst the story stays the same, the team or coach or player changes, and when it does, they discuss it as if they’ve had an insight that’s revolutionary.

    Footy might be an industry fuelled by hopes and dreams, but it is driven by the now. And the more “now” the AFL can give us, the greater the game is going to be.

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