Grand Final Big Win a Sin

Grand Final Big Win a Sin (Added 04 Nov 2010)

A look at what happens next for teams that win big in the big one.

By Penny Dredfell, Technical Football Analyst

After almost every flag is won, the reigning premiership team is installed as favourites for the next season. If they happen to win the grand final by a big margin, the euphoria surrounding the favouritism is generally more pronounced.

This year is no different, with the Pies being a clear bookies favourite for the 2011 flag. And why wouldn’t they be? Their mid to late part of the 2010 season was terrific in which they had big wins over the Saints, Cats and Dogs. There does not appear to be a challenger coming from back in the pack. Freo will not have a fit Barlow to begin 2011; the Hawks and Swans look a little shaky while the Blues and Dons may improve without being a premiership threat.

Below is a list of teams which won the grand final by more than 6 goals. It shows how they fared the following year and also what happened to the team they easily defeated. The “different era” from 1897 through to the Melbourne domination from 1955 to 1960 has been excluded.


Yr     Team          Margin       Next Yr      GF Loser    Next Yr

1961 Hawks        43                9th              Dogs           5th

1963 Cats           49               3rd             Hawks        5th

1974 Tigers         41               3rd             North         Flag

1975 North         55               2nd            Hawks        Flag

1980 Tigers         80               7th              Pies             2nd

1983 Hawks        83               2nd             Dons           Flag

1985 Dons          78               5th              Hawks        Flag

1986 Hawks        42               2nd             Blues          Flag

1988 Hawks        96               Flag            Dees           4th

1990 Pies            48               7th              Dons           6th

1991 Hawks        53               6th              Eagles         Flag

1993 Dons           44               10th            Blues          5th

1994 Eagles         80               6th              Cats           2nd

1995 Blues          61               6th              Cats           7th

1996 North         43               4th              Swans         7th

2000 Dons           60               2nd             Dees            11th

2003 Lions          50               2nd             Pies             13th

2004 Port            40               6th              Lions          11th

2007 Cats            119             2nd             Port           13th

2010 Pies             56*             2nd             Saints         7th






* First Grand Final was drawn and the match was replayed the following week

The technical analyst looks for trends that develop and tend to repeat over a period of years. These trends tend to recur with eerie regularity. Some of the findings of technical analysis make a lot of sense. Other trends, however, just seem to happen. The technical analyst does not ask, “Why?” They merely learn the lessons of history.

Here’s another morsel for the statistically-minded: 7 of the 19 big flag winners made the grand final the following year. As listed above, only one of the 7 (Hawks in 1989, by a smidgeon) managed to win. But each of the seven teams to play in the big one the following year was outscored in the second half of the grand final:

North (flag 1975) was outscored by 11 points in 1976 (second half of the grand final) vs the Hawks.

The Hawks (flag 1983) were outscored by 49 points in 1984 (2nd half) vs the Dons.

The Hawks (flag 1986) were outscored by 21 points in 1987 (2nd half) vs the Blues.

The Hawks (flag 1988) were outscored by 31 points in 1989 (2nd half) vs the Cats.

The Dons (flag 2000) were outscored by 38 points in 2001 (2nd half) vs the Lions.

The Lions (flag 2003) were outscored by 41 points in 2004 (2nd half) vs Port.

The Cats (flag 2007) were outscored by 23 points in 2008 (2nd half) vs the Hawks.

The form analysts, as a whole, will tell you that the Pies are the ones to beat in 2011. They probably would have told you the same thing about the Hawks for 1962, the Cats for 1964, the Tigers for 1975 and so on for every team that had won a grand final by plenty. In 18 out of the last 19 times, they would have been wrong. The one exception involved a change of coach (Alan Joyce stepped in to coach Hawthorn in 1988 and Alan Jeans resumed for the 1989 season – a curio given that Collingwood are due for a change of coach in 2012). More surprisingly, 6 of the teams that were walloped in these grand finals managed to win the flag the following year.

There are arguments for the Pies winning in 2011 and they are refuted below

A: This time it’s different

If ever there was a year that was “different”, it was 2008. The Cats had won everything in 2007 bar the Nobel Peace Prize and looked totally invincible during 2008. They won 21 of 22 home and away matches and were the shortest priced favourites ever for the flag (since legal betting began) throughout the whole year. But they were beaten in the 2008 grand final by the Hawks (who played one great month of football). To add weight to the argument, the Hawks have never looked like a premiership threat since that day.

B: Nathan Buckley is to be the new coach in 2012 and so there is a similarity to the Hawks in 1988/89

The current arrangement is that Bucks doesn’t take over until AFTER the 2011 season. So reasoning is not applicable.

C: The big win theory can be ignored since the first grand final was a draw

This argument is worthy of consideration. Firstly, neither of the two teams to win the week after drawing a grand final won the next year. Melbourne finished 5th in 1949 and the Roos 2nd in 1978 (and outscored by 22 points in the second half!). But the 2010 grand final should be interpreted by how the year is remembered. The consensus is that the Pies were the dominant team – not that they were lucky to escape with a draw the first time. As such, the “big win” theory should apply in this instance.

In some years, the reigning “big winner” premiers had excuses. The Hawks lost premiership star Brendan Edwards in 1962; Richmond had the ill-fated John Pitura trade in 1975; Essendon had injuries in 1986 and so on. But the stats remain and they don’t lie. The Pies can, of course, win the 2011 flag. But history is against them.