The start of the season is so close I can almost taste it.  February has been a real struggle.  But this week we did get a bit of a sporting reprieve when some pre-season practice matches were shown on the subscription services.  At the time of writing, Melbourne played Richmond and I didn’t watch it but looking at the score can only conclude that Melbourne will miss the 8 and Richmond will win the premiership.

What exactly can you take away from pre-season practice matches as a spectator?  All I hope, watching my own team, is that no injuries occur.  Other than that, what is really riding on it?  I remember the good old days of pre-season cups and night premierships.  They were glorious times when there felt like something was riding on it and if before the season you knew your team was no good, they might pull out all stops just to fill the coffers for the end of season trip.  Do clubs display that silverware?  Maybe you can let me know.  Now we’re confronted with practice matches at 10 in the morning!  It’s like going to a junior footy match.  You can grab a thermos of coffee, sit on the sidelines and watch the kids run about, some of them having handstand competitions in the forward line rather than playing footy.  Now I’d love to see that.  Spare a thought for West Australians having to start watching at 7:00 AM.  Barely enough time to wolf down some Weet-Bix before watching the game.  If I was 21 years old that would be fine, I’ve been known to do beer on the Weet-Bix when I was that age.  However, I am not 21 anymore so it has become bran cereal with lactose-free milk followed by 7 courses of various medications.

I digress, here’s the last in our series of looking at the fixtures.  In a hurry?  Scroll down to see my predicted final ladder.


I can’t recall how long Hinkley was able to secure a contract for, but with Kochie, I suspect no contract is safe.  Port opens their season in Round 1 (remember, that comes after Round 0) with a game against last years Wooden Spooners and believe me if they are down by a point in the first 5 minutes, Kochie will be sharpening the implements. “Ista quidem vis est!”  But why wait till then?  After round 0 they will already be on 0 premiership points which will likely be unacceptable, and wolves will start circling Hinkley from that point on.  Ports draw is exactly middle.  That is, they have the 9th toughest draw so you can’t say tough, but it’s not that easy either.  Their tough run comes in the latter rounds (14 to 17), but with a couple of those at home, it’s not that tricky really.  Their best run is just before heading into the bye.  I’m predicting, with this ease, that Port will go deep into finals benefitting from home ground and Hinkley will guarantee another year at least.


Not sure how, but Richmond got a pretty tough draw given they didn’t play in the finals.  Perhaps the gods felt they have had enough success of late.  Yze came in for Dimma and they managed to retain Dusty, but with a few stalwarts moving on it will be a tough year for Richmond.  The fourth hardest draw overall and the toughness starts early with a tricky run after their early bye which includes Melbourne, Freo at home, the Dogs and Brisbane up at the Gabba.  They have one of the best runs home and may come home with a wet sail (or hungry teams vying for final 8 spots).  A bit of poetry from the fixturing gods here with an opening match against Dimma and the closing game also against Dimma.


I recall St. Kilda having a pretty tough fixture last year and they still scrambled into the 8 with trademark Ross Lyon techniques like making the game close scoring and ugly.  This year they have been gifted the second easiest draw of them all and this might see them do well…if only Ross can let them off the shackles once in a while.  They’ll be making their move around Rounds 8 to 12 where, with the exception of Melbourne, they play lower ranked teams.  They’ll need to bank those wins as around the bye mid-season they have some tough games to get through.  If they pinch a couple of those, they should set themselves up well for finals.


It’s always hard to tell with Sydney.  They are perennial finals players but to be without their key midfielder who blew his shoulder in a handstand comp at an Auskick match will make life difficult.  But, enter Grundy, who gets a chance at a club that actually wants him and Adams who gets a chance to stay fit right to the end and maybe they can do it.  After playing Melbourne and Collingwood in the opening two matches they have a string of easy games which might have them sitting at the top of the ladder by Round 7.  However, they have the toughest run of all into the finals playing 4 finalists in the last 6 games including last year’s grand finalists.  Like any property owner in Sydney, they need to bank early and then draw down on it late.


Is there any scenario where I could say West Coast get an easy draw?  Even if they played themselves 22 times this year, I think they’d miss finals.  Their goal this year is to get some of their key players on the field for more than 7 games.  With some unpredictable youth combined with some key positional talent, they might, just might, be able to scare a few sides this year.  To rub salt into their wound, they have been delivered the toughest start of any team playing Port Adelaide in Adelaide, GWS at home and Footscray on the road.  But the real hard work for them will be Round 9, 10 and 11, but after that there are some wins on offer at home in rounds 13 and 16 with a sneaky chance in round 15.  But on the whole, this looks to be another year that partners of West Coast Supporters will remark how helpful they have been around the house on weekends.


Last, but by no means least, Footscray.  Beveridge looked a bit shaky in his tenure last year but has been given another go at it.  They get a pretty soft draw which might be helpful.  A tiptoe through the tulips kind of start with rounds 2 to 5 giving them a leg up.  But they have a sprinkling of tough games throughout the year to make sure their ride is a bit roller-coastery.  Is there enough softness there to make finals?


And so here we have, what the Statistical Leviathan says will be the ladder at the end of home and away rounds in 2024…











Port Adelaide








Saint Kilda










Gold Coast








North Melbourne


West Coast

Have I mentioned that it might not be all that accurate?


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