Finally, the Essendon saga is over and the footy can start… oh wait, the appeal, yep, one feels like they’ll find MH370 before the Bombers drug scandal will finally be put to bed.

But tomorrow night looms large, when Richmond opens up the 2016 AFL season against the Northern Blues. They say its Carlton but the level of talent in their side can’t be anything above VFL, to call them an AFL outfit is taking a mountain of piss.

Hawthorn come into 2016 as reigning premier again, the experts tipping them to go four in a row are as lazy as Donald Trump’s hair, those tipping someone else just for the sake of it are being as ‘purposefully different’ as well, Donald Trump’s hair.

No-one tipped West Coast to finish top two last year, season after season the pundits eerily replicate the previous year’s ladder in their awe-inspiring season predictions.

So, what can we offer instead? Here’s a not very typical ladder prediction, one not based on gut feel nor on merely sticking to what happened last year.

The methodology was as such:

Start, naturally, with last year’s performances and then take into account the good luck, say close wins, and also the bad luck, perhaps injuries to key players. From there we look at the list changes over the off-season, the impact that they could/might have. Finally the draw – it is uneven and it does make some difference, particularly from a momentum perspective.

Going through the said fixture we get a best case result for each team, how many wins would a team get if everything goes about as right as possible. We then look also at the worst result for each team, how poorly can a team feasibly go if it’s a rotten year.

We take those two tallies and average it out to get a median number of wins and we rank accordingly. And thus, we have a season prediction that has gotten serious:

18. ESSENDON – 2 WINS, 20 LOSSES

Well, what did you expect? They’ll snare a Carlton or Brisbane somewhere and then, just because footy is weird like that, they’ll beat someone around the eight in what will be bandied as, of course, a ‘fairytale’.

17. BRISBANE LIONS – 3 WINS, 19 LOSSES

There’s something rotten in the state of Queensland football. There’s a midfield of sorts at the Gabba, at its best a pretty competitive one. But apart from ‘Sauce’ Merrett they are devoid of a tall that is both good and looks older than 12. They’re a long way off.

16. CARLTON – 4 WINS, 18 LOSSES

Rock bottom, but as Yazz so eloquently put it, the only way is up. And they will start to head up, with the likes of Patrick Cripps, Jacob Weitering, etc. Brendan Bolton has been given the license to reset from absolute ground zero; they’ll replicate what the Bulldogs did under Luke Beveridge in a few years’ time, plenty of talented youngsters imitating a Hawthorn style of football, it works eventually.

15. ST. KILDA – 6 WINS, 16 LOSSES

Neither here nor there. We like a lot of the Saints kids but nothing has totally taken our breath away like a Cripps, or Isaac Heeney, Marcus Bontempelli, etc. We like Jack Billings and Paddy McCartin when he isn’t spending time with a Brownless daughter, it’s just going to be a slow burn for St. Kilda. Back in Alan Richardson though, he’ll get there, just put the kettle on.

14. GOLD COAST – 9 WINS, 13 LOSSES

The Suns are like the Senate in Canberra, a lot of blokes standing around but no progress being made whatsoever. Supposed to be winning premierships any moment now but they could not be further away. The list talent is overrated and they have nowhere near enough depth to cover any inevitable injuries. It’s going to get worse as well, likely to lose one of Jaeger O’Meara and Dion Prestia, if not both.

13. MELBOURNE – 9 WINS, 13 LOSSES.

Nine wins for the Gold Coast is a poor return given their context, however this year will be the year Dees fans can say finally, ‘yes, I can start to see a football side breaking out of this everlasting misery’. Hogan up forward, a midfield of Jones, Vince, Petrecca, Viney, Oliver, Brayshaw and a defence taught by Paul Roos, it’s starting to come together. A promising preseason too which isn’t the be all and end all but definitely counts for something.

12. RICHMOND – 12 WINS, 10 LOSSES

Here’s where it gets mighty interesting, unless you’re a Tigers fan then best you scrub up on your Olympic sports and look forward to Rio later in the year. Richmond is destined to win more games than it loses but sadly there looks to be 11 teams above them. Some of those already were from last year, four finished the home and away higher and North Melbourne defeated them in the first final. However, the two other finalists from last year look to be better in 2016 too and to add insult to Chris Yarran’s predictable injury four other teams look poised to leapfrog them, improving via trade or organically with youth. Hey, at least it isn’t 9th.

11. ADELAIDE – 12 WIN, 10 LOSSES

So another on 12 wins, which is staggering but the maths works out and it’s what we’re destined for. The Crows have lost Dangerfield which simplistically enough drops them a few rungs lower. However the crux of a very good side remains and the Crouch brothers will leave their mark on this side and footy fans alike and inevitably it’ll be the gluttony of sides midtable that has the Crows sadly slip out of the eight.

10. SYDNEY – 12 WINS, 10 LOSSES

“Another on 12 wins, how many more?” Well, three more actually. As mentioned though, the maths works out. A top four side from last year who handled their finals series remarkably well considering they did so without Lance Franklin and Luke Parker most notably. So why the drop? You get the sense that unless Buddy kicks a bag there’s not as much to scare you about the Swans like ten years ago. The defence is ageing and as creative as hospital food, the midfield is slow-ish and can’t kick and who knows what scoreboard impact Kurt Tippet provides. Too many questions, too much the same, they’ve been overtaken.

9. WESTERN BULLDOGS – 12 WINS, 10 LOSSES

Pretty similar to last year, a lot to like and the future looks bright. They will regress ever so slightly because the Dogs caught a lot of teams off guard last year but 12 months on and teams will better negate the strengths of the backline offense. Rob Murphy, Matthew Boyd, Jason Johannisen won’t get anywhere near the same luxury of kick-starting attacks at will nor will Easton Wood be so free to intercept mark like 2015. But on track Doggies fans, on track.

8. NORTH MELBOURNE – 12 WINS, 10 LOSSES

They sneak it in, just. Back to back prelim final appearances and they almost snuff it. They will start the year really well and as the Melbourne fans head to the colder climates for a ski so will the Kangaroos momentum. They will be saved by time, not their form, their season will drop like a lead balloon. Enough talent there to have a winning record and make the finals though so not a horrible season.

7. GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY – 12 WINS, 10 LOSSES

So the top team of the 12 and 10 pack, the Giants will play in their first final series. Last year at one point they were dead certainties for the finals, almost a chance at top four, their play was quick and electric – the fears of an expansion domination were being felt by all and sundry. However their inexperience nobbled them, a few injuries to boot and the season fell off the back of the truck like Frank Lowy off a winner’s podium. Not this year, a full season of Shane Mumford, enough midfield depth to cover the loss of Adam Treloar and Steve Johnson is the icing on a very nice GWS cake.

6. COLLINGWOOD – 13 WINS, 9 LOSSES

Very simple – back to back 8 and 3 starts the last two years counts for something. Two years ago it was a reach and the 11 and 11 season was about right for the developing Pies. Last year the close losses nobbled them, had Hawthorn, Fremantle, Richmond and Port Adelaide all for the taking but just stuffed it when it mattered. The balancing out of those close losses plus the welcome additions and ongoing development to their list and 13 wins is on the cards.

5. GEELONG – 15 WINS, 7 LOSSES

To provide an example on how the best case-worst case works here, the Cats with their existing talent and off-season additions could do as well as 19 wins feasibly, if it all works, if everything goes perfectly. That being said, if it all goes like Dick Smith Electronics then an 11 and 11 season is about as best they can cater for. Therefore, with Patrick Dangerfield, a rejuvenated backline with Lachie Henderson becomes better for being out of Carlton and a midfield let by Zac Smith being better for no longer being stuck on the Gold Coast the Cats will gel, a good year coming up.

4. HAWTHORN – 15 WINS, 7 LOSSES

A drop to fourth but still, a mighty good year. Not too much to see here, the loss of Jarryd Roughead is important as is the retirements of David Hale and Brian Lake. The main reason for their strong result all things considered is that there are still way too many premiership players on this list still playing well and whilst their team may not improve this year it’s the role of the other sides around them to become ‘definitely’ better, to which there are very few.

3. WEST COAST – 16 WINS, 6 LOSSES

A very strong side who will do very well not to end up winning it. Lewis Jetta is a nice piece to add to the talented outfit that really should have won the whole thing last year if they didn’t get so nervous on the big stage, but in reality the making of a serious contender is there for all to see. Eric MacKenzie back is massive but the success of their web defence will be navigated better by the opposition a year on which prevents a cakewalk to a minor premiership.

2. PORT ADELAIDE – 17 WINS, 5 LOSSES

Two words – market correction. The Power were arguably the best side in football in 2014. Narrowly beaten by Hawthorn at the MCG on preliminary final night, had that game been in South Australia Port would have triumphed comfortably. Sure, the big games are played in Melbourne so that’s for Ken Hinkley to accept but this footy side is largely indifferent to the might of that outfit two seasons back. The loss of Patrick Ryder doesn’t hurt as much as the loss of Angus Monfries, but Matthew Lobbe is very underrated when rucking one out, Chad Wingard will be in the top three players in the league by the end of the year and Charlie Dixon is the quintessential missing piece.

1. FREMANTLE – 17 WINS, 5 LOSSES

Matthew Pavlich didn’t do squat last year so his age and decline are not important. The fact that there isn’t any really noticeable replacement either is also not important as they were minor premiers last year anyway. Luke McPharlin is a big loss, or is he, they won 16 games in 2014 and he only played half the season. Harley Bennell once he gets on the park will be insanely good for this outfit and whilst Aaron Sandilands is still fit, and Nat Fyfe is in Brownlow-form, another Ross Lyon-driven top two finish is all but locked away.

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