The JTL (Just Too late) ladder predictor

The JTL (Just Too late) ladder predictor and list of “relevant” players who have had much better / much worse lead-ins to the 2018 season compared to 2017; and a quick look at round 1

Added 21 March 2018

The Ladder (in order and wins worked out to the nearest 0.1 of a win)
RI        16.9

PO      16.6

SY       16.3

ME      15.2

AD      14.6

GE       14

GW     12.6

WB     11.6

CO      11

ST        10.3

ES        10.1

WC     9.2

HA      8.6

FR       8.1

NO      6.7

CA       5.7

BR       5.3
GC       5.2

Richmond has pretty much the same team as last year – but seem to have hit the ground running early in 2018 and have few injury concerns. They are likely to have 20 of the 22 grand final players up and running for the GF rematch in Adelaide; that is their only game outside Melbourne in the first 7 weeks; the other 6 games are against CAR, HAW, BRI, MEL, COL and FRE; they should be at 5 or 6 wins at that stage.

Port Adelaide looks better with the inclusion of Rockliff, Watts, Motlop, Jack Trengove  and Trent McKenzie (they lost Jackson Trengove, Impey and Young) and are reasonably healthy; a lot depends on how healthy Rockliff; Kane Cornes reckons Powell-Pepper might be the next big thing; Port year starts with FRE, SYD away, BRI, ESS away, GEE, NOR away and WCE away; apart from the Lions, Port plays teams in the first 7 weeks with equal or worse injury quotients; the almost certain wins would be weeks 1,3 and 6; they should win 2 of 4 of the weeks 2,4,5 and 7; these four games are the critical ones as they lead up to the round 8 Showdown.  Port needs to step up to the plate in terms of beating contenders this year – no reason why they cannot take that step

The Sydney Swans look worse off – at first glance – losing Tippett and now Naismith for the year; this makes them thin on the ground for talls, and need Sinclair to stand up; he might get help from the yet-to-debut Cameron, Towers and maybe Aliir. A big tick for the Swans is that their list is healthier now (compared to 12 months ago) and they totally shocked Paul Roos by winning both their JLT games for the first time since 1898.  Their main concerns early on are McVeigh and Hannebery; both have had interrupted pre-seasons; if Sinclair goes down for a lengthy period, they will be in trouble

The Dees finally appear to be on track for finals; they have traded well – getting Lever – while losing six goal JLT man Watts.  More importantly, they will be hoping to have Hogan and Gawn for the whole year.  Both missed huge chunks of 2017. Their early draw looks relatively friendly – GEE, BRI away, NOR, HAW, RIC, ESS and STK; they should start firm favourites in 5 of these games and would be aiming for a 6-1 start

The Crows were the best team in 2017, but not when it counted most. So it makes no sense to put them down at 5th.  But they have the worst injury outlook of any team; Smith is gone for the year and they will be without Knight and Brad Crouch for many weeks; then there is uncertainty about Captain Tex Walker.  Their season begins with ESS away, RIC, STK away, COL and SYD away (they will be hot favourites in only one of those games) then easier games against GCS and CAR in round 6 and 7; with round 8 being an “away” game, then round 9 a home game vs WBD, they can really consolidate a finals spot in that block.  They would like to have Tex fit and firing for the GF replay and the tricky away game against the Saints the following week.

The Cats fans need to do one thing – forget Gary Ablett; maybe an impossible task, but it’s not really all about him; he is their main recruit; Kelly looks handy and Crameri is the other notable one – but he starts the year injured; to get Gaza, they had to (indirectly) offload Motlop and Lang, while Mackie and Lonergan have retired. So the key for the Cats is for the second tier and fringe players to step up; they begin with multiple players injured, but no real long term ones; but the problem with that is that the early season provides them with no lay down misere wins; they have MEL, HAW, WCE away, STK, POR away, SYD and GWS (last two at round 4 at Geelong); then things look a little easier; but they face the possibility of being 2-5 or 3-4 at best if the support cast to the great trio down fire
The Giants have similar injury concerns to the Crows; they have lost Setterfield for the year and maybe Williams as well; Griffen is out indefinitely and Deledio is underdone; Greene and Lobb have been on modified programs, while others have had issues as well; they are arguably the worst off team coming into round 1; their outs (Johnson, Mumford, Smith Wilson and Matthew Kennedy) are only somewhat offset by their ins – the delisted Keeffe and Dylan Buckley; so they will be heavily relying on the natural improvement of their young high draft picks; they have a lot of early travel with the season going like this: WBD in Canberra, COL away, SYD away, FRE in Canberra, STK away, BRI at home and then GEE away; they would only be total certs for 2 of these games – given their current injury status; if they can get through to round 7 relatively unscathed and with a reasonable number of wins, then rounds 8 – 10 should provide them with a triplet of victories.

The Dogs are hard to work out; usually teams that win a GF “before time” like the Dogs did have a lean year the following year and then play finals; Penny Dredfell may expand on this at some stage; it happened previously with Essendon 1993 and also Hawthorn 2008; the Dogs were one of the few teams to win a flag from outside the top 4 and they did it with several injuries; last year may things went wrong for them; this year, Jackson Trengove comes in along with Crozier and Schache; out goes Cloke, Crameri, Matthew Boyd, Murphy and Stringer; things seem to be on track at Dogland, according to those in the know, so they will be tipped to play finals; but their injury list is a concern – more so because of the length of time players will miss; Adams and Morris will miss half the season, while Picken is on indefinite leave due to concussion. They begin the year with GWS in Canberra, then WCE, ESS, SYD, FRE away, CAR and GCS; this is a positive while their medium term injuries get back; they would appear to have 3 certain wins here (weeks 2,6 and 7) with chances in all the other games.  Overall, their fixture is friendlier than in 2017; this will keep them just ahead of the chasing pack

Collingwood has been talking up 2018 for several years now. This was the year they had earmarked to move into premiership contention.  But there have been too many speed-bumps to give fans much confidence right now; the main problem has been the durability of the list; Elliott, Wells, Fasolo, Greenwood, Goldsack, Moore and fringe player Aish are all either injured now or significantly underdone;  Goldsack is gone for the year, but the rest might all come back; they would probably need to have better fortune with the list health in 2018 than has been the case in recent years; that would put them in the race for a finals berth; their first seven weeks reads: HAW, GWS, CAR, ADE away, ESS, RIC, BRI away; they are likely to be significant outsiders against both 2017 grand finalists, but the others are all winnable; four wins would be a pass mark and give them a chance to build from there.

St Kilda has been racing Melbourne up the ladder, but seemed to have been left behind as we begin 2018. Now they face the task of climbing after the retirements of Riewoldt and Montagna; having gone for youth, it seems that they are due to peak about 2 years later then the Dees now. Their list looks fairly healthy, but it seems that both rucks (Hickey and Longer) have had some injury concerns in the pre-season; the Saints would be a chance for finals if one of these guys were to have a great season. The early draw looks positive with BRI and the NOR; then they play ADE, GEE away (Gazza’s first game at KP for 2018) and GWS; while it may seem that they will be outsiders in each of these games, they currently have a shorter injury list than all three opponents; then they have tricky assignments against HAW in Tassie and MEL; assuming they begin at 2-0, they must win at least 2 of the next 5 to stay in the hunt because week 8-11 give them 2 games in Perth and a tussle with the reigning premiers!

Essendon is the last team with genuine finals prospects, according to the analysis; they recovered from the annus horribilis of 2016 to make finals last year, but had run out of puff come finals time and got slaughtered by the Swans.  They seem to have recruited quite well (Saad, Smith and Stringer – not wasting to much of the alphabet in their inclusions – to replace the retired Watson and Kelly); but this year, the fixture is tougher for them, their injuries are slightly worse and their early form has been underwhelming (although they had the flu prior to the Richmond JLT game – and then maybe got lucky against Geelong when Danger went down early); Ambrose, Colyer, Francis and Gleeson are all out for multiple weeks; the first seven weeks gives them no dead cert win; they have games against ADE, FRE away (Dockers first premiership points game at the new stadium),  WBD, POR, COL, MEL and HAW; it is unlikely that any of these four outs will be back and firing by that time; while they are not out of any of these games totally, they may only start favourites in 2 or, perhaps, 3 of them. How well will they go in the second year into their “new start”?  It is hard to tell; they will need to go well to repeat last year’s effort of a finals appearance.

The Eagles have been widely tipped to drop out of the finals race this year; one reason given is that they have an MCG-sized ground to play on now in Perth; while that is a factor, there are other reasons; Nicnat must be in some doubt to return to top form; their fixture is tougher this year and they have a large turnover of players; out goes Mitchell, Priddis, Wellingham, Butler, Petrie and Hill (Josh); they gain Ah Chee and Liam Ryan (not to be confused with Luke Ryan at the Dockers).  Not enough talent coming in to replace the outs, but a starring role from Nicnat would help! Their year begins with SYD at the new Perth stadium, WBD away, GEE, GCS (an away game but in Perth due to Commonwealth Games), CAR away, FRE and then POR.  They will need to rack up the wins early, because the draw gets tougher in the latter part of the season; a first up win would be terrific, but not easy against the Swans (who have had a huge build-up to 2018 after starting 2017 at 0-6); they seem to be almost in a mini-rebuild

Hawthorn dropped down the ladder last year – first time out of the 8 since 2009 when they just missed; this time, they were a long way back; it’s hard to see them bounce back this year – they have lost Gibson, Hodge and Hartung and gained Impey; of course, they will be hoping that a “recruit” will be O’Meara (6 games last year at the Hawks and struggled with injury), but he is no total cert; their pre-season form has not been that great; and they have Birchall out for at least half the season, with Langford and Ceglar a month away & Cyril behind the 8-ball fitness-wise after personal leave; their start is vital (they were 0-5 last year) and begin with COL, then GEE, RIC, MEL, NOR, STK in Tassie and ESS; they could possibly be 6 & 1 after these games but maybe only firm favourites against the Roos

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has openly admitted that they are in a rebuild; he is the best coach by far to listen to; so few are expecting a rapid rise up the ladder; the only real loss is Weller, although also out went Suban, Ibbotson and Crozier. Wilson comes from GWS and also Matera from the Suns; the Dockers pre-season form has been encouraging, although not too much should be written into their big win in JLT2 over the Eagles; the Dockers have had rotten luck with high-ish profile recruits and Bennell is injured again, with no news on a return date; the rest of the list is relatively healthy with Spurr being the only name player missing all of April with Bennell.  The 2 Hills are racing the clock to play round 1; they should not risk them in a hard game to win anyway; the year starts with POR away, ESS, GCS away but in Perth due to Commonwealth Games), GWS away, WBD, WCE, RIC away; while not expected to be challenging for the 8, they have chances to win 4 of these games (2,3,5,6)
The Kangaroos have been tipped by many for the Spoon; but they are likely to avoid that “prize”.  Their percentage last year was 88 (Dockers and Lions were 74) and were a tad unlucky in some games; but they. Like the Dockers, are into a big rebuild; out goes Gibson, Mullett, Thomas and Swallow, while Hartung is the only player of note to come in; to offset this imbalance in ins and outs, their fixture is friendlier and their injury list is a bit shorter than last year; their offical AFL injury list is 8 players, but most are in the bottom half of the talent / experience pool; that is okay, but some key players did have interrupted pre-seasons (eg Jacobs, Preuss, Ziebell, Williams); they begin their year with a critical match against the GCS in Cairns – a home game for the Suns; then they have STK, MEL, CAR in Tassie, HAW, POR and SYD away; like the Dockers, few are expecting finals; but they do have chances for wins in the early part of the season – they would want a minimum 2 wins from these 7 games.

Carlton          generated some excitement in the pre-season by winning both JLT games; here is another team in a big rebuild – having been touted to have the worst list of all a few years ago; SOS has cherry-picked a few Giants in recent years; this year they picked up some depth players in Lang, Matthew Kennedy, Lobbe and Mullett (sticks will love him); the only significant out is Gibbs and their top pick Dow looks like a player already; the double-whammy after losing Gibbs was to have Docherty go down for the season; other than that, only Pickett is out for any extended time, but a few players have had interrupted pre-seasons. Their season begins with RIC, GCS, COL, NOR in Tassie, WCE, WBD and then ADE away; they may fancy their chances in rounds 2, 4 and 5

The Brisbane Lions
won the spoon last year after going down to the Roos in the final round, but their percentage went up from 61% in 2016 to 74% in 2017 – quite a high % for the spoon team; they are yet another team on a big rebuild; they have a few things going for them, but nothing to generate excitement for 2018; they seem more stable and settled in the past 12 months and have some promising youngsters; their big recruit is Hodge – who seems destined for coaching when he retires; they also picked up Charlie Cameron from the Crows and got the number 1 draft pick in Rayner – who looks right sat home so far; to make things tough, they lost Rockliff and Schache (the latter not starring in his brief stay, but was the number 2 pick); but their big help is the Suns having their first 9 games on the road – including China; that should be just enough to keep the Lions off the bottom; the other positive is a very short injury list. They start their year with STK away, MEL, POR away, RIC away, GCS, WS away and COL; it’s a pretty tough draw, but the round 5 game against the Suns will be pencilled in as a must win game; by then the Suns will have travelled to Cairns, Melbourne, Perth twice (or maybe a long stay west) and may be feeling the effects of it.

The Suns
finished second last in 2017 on the back of a horror run of injuries and some administrative problems; poor old Rodney Eade was trying to do his best by the players in terms of travel to China, but the whole thing became a shemozzle – with the team stranded on a tarmac in Singapore for a couple of hours – with most in economy; the Suns looked likely to beat Carlton in round 13 but an horrific injury to Barlow killed off their momentum sand the Blues were good enough to take advantage; the Commonwealth Games have virtually killed off the season for the Suns; they play 9 away games in a row to start the season, including 2 games in Perth and 1 in China; while their overall injury prognosis is not too bad, they have a number of players missing round 1 of underdone – including Hall, Hanley, Lemmens, Wigg, Wright and the returning Barlow.  This is a pity for the Suns, because their round 1 home game in Cairns versus the Roos is a sort of Grand Final for them; next they play (all away) CAR, FRE, WCE, BRI (at least it’s just a drive away), ADE and WBD; two wins out of that lot would be a monstrous bonus for new coach Stuart Dew.

Players to have had a better pre-season in 2017 (those that are fantasy-relevant)
Tom Lynch (Adelaide)
Hugh McLuggage
Alex Witherden
Ciaran Byrne
Patrick Cripps
Tom Langdon
Ed Langdon
Lachie Neale
Cam Guthrie
Stephen Coniglio
Lachie Whitfield
Jaeger O’Meara
Angus Brayshaw
Todd Goldstein
Jack Graham
Blake Acres
Jack Steele
Jack Steven
Harry Cunningham
Oliver Florent
Robbie Fox
Kieren Jack
Luke Parker


Those players to have a worse pre-season this year compared to last year
Hugh Greenwood
Matthew Kennedy
Alex Fasolo
Jeremy Howe
Darcy Moore
Orazio Fantasia
Stephen Hill
Tom Scully
Jack Viney
Tom Rockliff
Bachar Houli
Billy Longer
Daniel Hannebery
Players already ruled out for extended weeks are not included; refer to AFL injury list


Round I  quick thoughts
Just confirming that there will not be a regular preview and review for each round; but this is written on Wednesday night / Thursday morning with only the Richmond / Carlton game teams known.

Tigers are total certs (Thursday night 7.20pm  – please note this earlier than often Friday night start time!!) over the Blues; yes, they play the GF rematch in round 2, but there is almost no hope of them relaxing against Carlton; Houli, Rioli and Prestia are out injured from the Grand Final team, while Broad is suspended; in comes Short, Ellis (Corey), Conca and Bolton; this is a slightly weaker team than the Grand Final team, although it could be argued that Conca is in the best 22 and only missed out last year due to his injury problems; the Blues are missing the following from their best team: Docherty;  Williamson and Lang both out are and around the mark of the best 22; Williamson played round 3 onwards last year and only missed due to injury and illness – never dropped; Pickett is also out long term; Dow debuts in round 1; Garlett comes in after last playing an AFL game with the Suns in 2016; Matthew Kennedy from GWS debuts for the Blues as does ex Roo Mullett.  Tigers by 39 points and CERTS

Essendon Bombers vs Adelaide Crows. Docklands Friday 7.50pm
The Crows would be desperate to win in Victoria – given that their last such game was a horror GF loss; but their lead-in to this game has not been great; they are currently without Smith (gone for the year), Walker, Brad Crouch and Knight; the Crows have already announced 2 debutantes: Fogarty and Doedee; and Gibbs will also play his first game for the club as well as Gibson; the Bombers were awful in JLT1 against Richmond, but they were dealing with the flu.. and much better against Geelong in JLT2; the experts reckon that they still lack midfield quality; one potential solution in that area is Parish; he had a scan on Monday but the club says that all is good and he is right to go; the Bombers will be missing Ambrose, Myers, Fantasia, Gleeson; Brown is a test and may play; it will be interesting to see how the three S’s go for the Bombers – Smith, Stringer and Saad; the former tow had some interruption to their pre-seasons; the public may, perhaps, have taken too much notice of the “JLT Showdown” where Port romped away from the Crows; it was played at Alberton Oval, which was a big plus for the Port team and fans; the Crows will be more focused now; but there is only 1 game to win this year to satisfy, and that game is 6 months away; Crows by 6 points

St Kilda Saints vs Brisbane Lions. Docklands Saturday 3.35pm (Lions fans will be able to see the AFLW GF at 12.35pm at Princes Park and then get to the Docklands in time for the first bounce (provided they walk fast); given that the Lions are considered likely to be cellar-dwellers, this is a must win game for the Saints; but they go into the season without a JLT win (losing to the Blues and Dees) and with both rucks Hickey and Longer having a less than ideal pre-season; the club is even talking up 3rd option Marshall; the Saints have Longer and Steven as tests; watch for selections and late changes; they are likely to be named but then checked on Friday; sadly, Freeman is injured again and fringe player Minchington is out for a long time; Clark has already been told he will debut this week; the Lions have the shortest injury list in the league – with Paparone the most high profile out; ex Crow Cameron and ex Hawk Hodge look certain to play, while number 1 draft pick Rayner looks across the line to debut, while Christensen looks set to play his first AFL game since R11 2016; this is a slight danger game for the Saints, but they should be good enough to close it out; will the AFLW game be a help or distraction for the Lions? hard to say; Saints by 23 points but not 100% certs

Port Adelaide Power vs Fremantle Dockers. ​ (Adelaide Oval)​ Saturday 4.35pm eastern (clashes with Saints game due to the AFLW GF)
Port will be missing Pittard and Broadbent for this clash, with Powell-Pepper and Boak both given the green light after injuries; Rockliff is listed on 20 March on Port’s website as “back in full training for a week and available for selection”; expect him to be underdone; watch for team selections; other recruits Watts and Motlop are expected to play, with Dom Barry a chance after not having played an AFL game since 2014 for the Dees; Port is in the premiership window, while the Dockers are rebuilding; this looks like an easy kill for Port; Freo have announced Banfield and Andrew Brayshaw will debut this week; Stephen Hill is out injured while brother Brad is a test; Spurr and Bennell won’t be seen for some time; Port by 43 points and certs  PS: SORRY; forgot to mention that Robbie Gray is suspended for round 1 only!!

Gold Coast Suns vs North Melbourne Kangaroos. ​(Cazaly’s Stadium) ​where is Cazaly stadium, you may ask; it’s UP THERE!! in Cairns; Saturday 7.25pm eastern but 6.25 local time; expecting 4-10mm of rain and a bit breezy (following 2-8mm of rain forecast for Friday) and humidity likely as well!
This is a Grand Final of sorts; both teams have been tipped to win the spoon and here is a chance to be in the eight after round 1; the Suns looked great in the JLT – whipping Geelong and then grinding out a win in wet conditions over the Lions; trouble is – they have lost some players along the way; Hall, Janley and Lemmens (good friend of Gorringe) will all miss, while Wright and Wigg are tests; Wigg, along with Barlow and Ah Chee, come in with no JLT games; Holman (back from the wilderness) and Weller are likely to play thier first games for the club; the Roos were poor in the JLT off the back of multiple players having interrupted pre-seasons;  but things are looking up now and most of the best 22 are available for selection; Preuss (no cert to play anyway), Garner, Hrovat, Jacobs and Ziebell all missed parts of the pre-season; Garner is a test and Wright has been ruled out;  the Suns are tipped to win this on the back of their better recent form and semi home ground advantage; they also played in Townsville recently

Hawthorn Hawks vs Collingwood Magpies. Played in Victoria.  MCG  Saturday  7.25pm
Hawks have not been overly convincing & Pies have injury problems; this is a game to avoid if you can; the Pies have already put a line through the following fir round 1: Greenwood, Elliott, Oxley, Goldsack and De Goey; Wells is available but needs more training before being ready to play; he and Fasolo will play VFL practice this week; Moore and Howe might be somewhat underdone; Stephenson has been pre-named to make his debut along with Murray; Cyril will play for the Hawks, according to their website, but is a bit underdone; Ceglar, Birchall and Langford have all been ruled out; Frawley may be slightly underdone may change; given the confirmation of outs for the Pies, the Hawks will be tipped by 3 points with no confidence

Greater Western Sydney Giants vs Western Bulldogs. Played in A.C.T.  UNSW Oval  Sunday 1.10pm
Deledio will play for the Giants despite not playing a JLT; it was a plan, according to the coach, and not because he was too injured to play JLT; there still must be some questions about him being 100%; Greene hasn’t had the best pre-season but played JLT2; the club announced that Langdon will debut in the orange and charcoal; Griffen, Kennedy (Adam, the only one left at GWS), Williams, Setterfield and Buntine will all miss; Scully and Hopper are down as tests; neither played JLT nor the final practice match; the Dogs have had some player swith minor niggles that weren’t severe enough to make it onto the injury list; Adams, Morris and Picken are all out for extended periods; Redpath misses round 1 only with suspension; Roughead is a test offically, but the coach said on 21 March that he will play; ; Boyd and Campbell haven’t played a JLT game; English is tipped to play as a back-up for Roughead; it is expected Wallis may come back through the VFL
Both teams have injury worries; Giants by 9 points
Melbourne vs Geelong Cats. MCG Sunday 3.20pm
The Dees have been really good in the pre-season after the disappointment of missing the finals in round 23 last year with a loss to the Pies; they sailed through the JLT undefeated and with the injured Viney and Vandenberg; Tom Mcdonald copped a “minor toe” injury in JLT1 and we just now find out that he is gone for up to 2 months – along with Viney; despite the fact that the were both already ruled out of round 1, the money poured in for the Cats after this announcement!!!??? the positive part of this story was that the coach told us Fritsch will debut; Oliver was a test and they are confident he will play; reading between the lines, expect him to be named but watch for late changes Sunday; Lewis is available for selection but had an old man’s calf injury which he picked up in JLT1; Neal-Bullen missed JLT2 with a quad, but is apparently all good; that list looks long, but none of them played in JLT2 and they easily beat the Saints; the Cats have injury concerns of their own; they will be without Dangerfield (probably – he is listed as test), Henderson, the oft-injured McCarthy and fringe player Stanley; the Cats website has a headline “Selwood to play VFL”; this is Scott – who is recovering from an ankle injury; Joel is good to go; similarly, Crameri will come back via the VFL; Kelly has been named to make his debut for Geelong; the Dees have been poor starters and the Cats good ones in recent times
Dees by a point, but it is a game to avoid if you can
West Coast Eagles vs Sydney Swans. Played in West Australia. Optus Oval = new Perth stadium.  Sunday 7.20pm eastern
The Swans were up and running early in the year – winning both JLT games;  Eagles will be missing Ah Chee, MacKenzie, Rioli, Vardy and Kennedy; the Eagles are saying that both Lycett and the underdone Nicnat will play; mystery surrounds Masten – didn’t play JLT; is he injured or otherwise unavailable? Expect him not to be named this week; the Swans will be missing Naismith (for the year) and Johnson; Hannebery and McViegh are tests; the Swans by 15 points