Fixture Analysis: Assessing every club’s schedule

We take a deep dive into the stats, analysing every club's strength of schedule based on SuperCoach points scored and conceded.

AFL Key Analysis Pre Season

With the 2022 AFL season fast approaching, it’s time to take a deep dive in to one of the most overlooked and underrated factors in choosing your starting SuperCoach team; the fixture.

Being aware of which clubs face SC-friendly (or unfriendly) stretches at the beginning, end or any-time-during the season can help decide your 50-50 coin-flips, as well as unlocking that elusive door between mid-price and premium players.

Not to mention softening the blow of the dreaded byes and ensuring you’ve always got an abundance of captaincy options to choose from – in fact, what can’t a good fixture analysis do?!

The correct answer is ‘nothing’, and that’s why you’re reading this article. Let’s get into it.

*Note – whilst we do know the matchups (who’s playing who) for every single week of the season, currently only the exact dates/times of games in weeks 1-9 have been released by the AFL.

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VC Loopholes

Before getting bogged down in the nitty-gritty minutiae of each club’s path through the season it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the fixture as a whole. 

As usual, the rolling lockout adds a layer of complexity and scoring potential.

Clubs with a skewed proportion of games early in a weekend provide you with more VC loophole options, while clubs with Sunday afternoon/night games can provide you with DNP donut candidates to facilitate those loopholes.

The Western Bulldogs are the undisputed early winners of the fixture in all respects, with six of their first nine games falling on or before Friday night, including the AFL season opener on a Wednesday against the Demons.

That makes their premium midfield outfit of Marcus Bontempelli (M), Jackson Macrae (M), Josh Dunkley (M/F) and Adam Treloar (M/F) even more alluring given their VC capabilities.

Port Adelaide and Collingwood are the next-best in this context, with three of their first nine games finishing on or before Friday night.

Carlton plays back-to-back Thursday nights to start the season before returning to relative Saturday/Sunday obscurity (I think I speak for everyone here when I say: THANK CHRIST for that) for their remaining seven confirmed outings.

At the other end of the spectrum, three of West Coast’s opening nine games are the last of their respective rounds, which makes taking a flyer on one of their bargain-basement DPP options who might not play early doors (e.g. Isiah Winder $123,900 M/F), and using them as a guaranteed DNP to access your VC loophole, just a touch more enticing.

Fremantle and Carlton are the other two notable clubs here, with two of their first nine games falling as the last in a round. 

Hawthorn, meanwhile, play seven games out of their opening stretch in the late Saturday afternoon slot or later, as well as scoring two Monday games.

As a result, Sam Butler ($117,300 M/F), Jai Serong ($117,300 M/F) and Ned Long ($102,400 M/F) will be popular M11 / F8 options.

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Bye Rounds

Round 12: Carlton, Essendon, GWS, Port, St Kilda, Richmond

Round 13: Adelaide, Geelong, Gold Coast, Sydney, West Coast, Western Bulldogs

Round 14: Collingwood, Brisbane, North Melbourne, Fremantle, Melbourne, Hawthorn

A deeper bye strategy analysis is one we’ll save for a later date, but for the moment I’m going to leave you with one thought to keep in mind for each bye round.

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R12: Upgrade Targets

If you don’t start the year with midfield premos like Darcy Parish, Sam Walsh, Travis Boak or Jack Steele; or popular forward options like Dustin Martin, Tim Taranto or Zak Butters, after their round 12 bye might be the perfect time to get them.

Make sure those rookie cash cows are fattened up and ready for culling!

Not only should this help with your in-season upgrade/downgrade planning, but it might help with the structure of your initial team.

Stephen Coniglio ($261,300 M/F) and Jade Gresham ($299,000 M/F) are two severely underpriced DPP options, but can you really afford to have the two of them PLUS Taranto/Dusty/Butters languishing on the forward pine in your first bye week?

I don’t know the answer, but I do know it makes me feel more comfortable only starting one of Cogs / Gresh, rather than both. 

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R13: POD Decisions

While there are some big names on the pine this week – Touk Miller, Bontempelli, Macrae, Treloar, Mitch Duncan – ultimately R13 is going to hinge on which of point of difference players (PODs) you upgrade, which you ride for the long-haul and which you try and catch at the right time. 

Matt Rowell, Callum Mills, Tim Kelly, Cam Guthrie and Luke Parker have all been floated as speculative pre-season picks and all have the round 13 bye.

By the time we actually reach this stage of the season you’ll need to be deeply embroiled in your end-game, round 23 team planning.

Some difficult decisions will need to be made about the futures (or lack thereof) of the starting PODs in your side.

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R14: Ruck Carnage

With set-and-forget stars Brodie Grundy, Max Gawn and Sean Darcy all on the sidelines in round 14, in all likelihood your ruck stocks are going to be sitting somewhere between severely depleted and utterly non-existent. 

Do you mitigate losses from the get-go by starting with Rowan Marshall and/or Reilly O’Brien instead?

Do you sideways trade one of Grundy/Gawn/Darcy and bring in one of the other two specifically for this week?

Do you start with Brayden Preuss at R2, or even R3? Do you ignore this problem entirely and hope it magically goes away?

The options are endless but none of them (yes, even the last one) feels optimal – that’s the beauty of SuperCoach.

Fixture Hardness

The last thing we need to look at with regard to the fixture is which clubs have friendly or unfriendly SuperCoach matchups across the season.

Thankfully, the stats gurus over at supercoachdata.com have collated a stack of data and can tell us which teams are more or less likely to concede SuperCoach points to their opponents based on 2021’s results; see below.

The numbers in the far right-hand column are how many SuperCoach points above or below league average that team concedes to their opponents. For example, teams playing North Melbourne score an average of 5 points more than league average, whereas teams playing Geelong score an average of points less than league average. The higher the number, the easier that team is to play against from a SuperCoach perspective

We can now cross reference those numbers above with each team’s 22-round 2022 schedule to figure out where to squeeze some extra points!

First 5 games

First 5 GamesFixture Rating
St Kilda11
West Coast Eagles9
Fremantle4
Adelaide Crows3
Richmond2
Western Bulldogs2
Gold Coast Suns1
GWS Giants1
Port Adelaide1
Carlton-2
Collingwood-2
Hawthorn-2
Sydney Swans-3
Brisbane Lions-4
Essendon-4
Geelong Cats-4
North Melbourne-6
Melbourne-7

*Note – the higher your fixture rating the better!*

No better place to start than with the first five games of the season. 

Looking to jump on a mid-price starter like Jade Gresham to try and make your way up to a premo by the time the first bye rolls around? Or yearning for the safety of a set and forget captaincy option in Jack Steele? Well, it’s your lucky day!

The Saints start off the year with a dream run, playing Collingwood, Fremantle, Richmond, Hawthorn and the Suns in the first five weeks. 

All five of those clubs gave up an above average SuperCoach score to their opponents in 2021, with Fremantle the second-friendliest opponent in the league.

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The Hawks and Suns are also the two easiest teams for ruckmen to play against, both averaging 9 points more than league average. Rowan Marshall anybody?… 

The Eagles are flying under the SuperCoach radar this pre-season, but with an opening run of games against the generous Suns, Kangaroos, Dockers and Pies, it’s time to give some serious thought to undervalued premos like Tim Kelly, Andrew Gaff and Elliot Yeo.

At the other end of the spectrum, it’s a horror start for the Dees, with all but one of their opponents (Gold Coast in round 2) performing above league average when it comes to restricting opponent SuperCoach scoring. 

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Jake Bowey is generating some early buzz as a mid-price defender after his stunning finish to last year, but looking at Melbourne’s early run of games may give you pause for thought.

Similarly, an uber-premo like Clayton Oliver could be snapped up at a later date rather than holding him from the beginning.

The Bombers, meanwhile, play the Cats (-6), Lions (-2) and Demons (-3) in their first three rounds for a diabolical three-round fixture rating of -11. That’s, uhh, not good.

It does get better from there, though, with their next three weeks consisting of the Crows (+3), Fremantle (+4) and Collingwood (+2), which could mean the Dons are a perfect candidate for a sideways trade if one of your early speculative picks doesn’t work out.

First 11 games

First 11 GamesFixture Rating
Melbourne8
Carlton7
Fremantle6
Western Bulldogs6
St Kilda5
Collingwood4
Geelong Cats4
GWS Giants1
Sydney Swans1
Brisbane Lions-1
Gold Coast Suns-1
Port Adelaide-1
Richmond-1
West Coast Eagles-2
Adelaide Crows-6
Hawthorn-8
Essendon-10
North Melbourne-12

Our next checkpoint along the road is after 11 games, around the time the fearsome byes begin to rear their ugly heads.

Almost unbelievably after their rough start, the Demons have ended up scoring the most SuperCoach-friendly fixture over the first 11 rounds.

This is largely due to a juicy five-game stretch between rounds 6 and 11 where they play Richmond (+2), Hawthorn (+1), St Kilda (+1), West Coast (+2), North (+5) and Fremantle (+4). Their fixture rating over that period is a remarkable +15.

If you decide not to start with Clayton Oliver – for example – round 6 or 7 might be the perfect time to pick him up.

Other targets around this time are likely to be; Angus Brayshaw (M), Christian Petracca (M), Max Gawn (R) or Christian Salem (D).

Other items of note from the first 11 rounds are North Melbourne and Essendon, who have a horror start to the year.

This shouldn’t make any difference to your decision-making around rookies like Jason Horne-Francis, but it might give you something to think about when considering starting-calibre premos such as Jack Ziebell, Darcy Parrish, Jordan Ridley or Zach Merrett.

Full season

Full SeasonFixture Rating
Hawthorn9
Carlton8
Geelong Cats7
Gold Coast Suns6
Sydney Swans5
Adelaide Crows4
West Coast Eagles3
Collingwood1
Brisbane Lions0
Melbourne0
Port Adelaide-1
GWS Giants-2
Richmond-2
Fremantle-3
Essendon-5
St Kilda-8
North Melbourne-9
Western Bulldogs-10

Finally, let’s take a look at our full season Fixture Ratings, where we can see the Hawks, Blues and Cats out in front, with the Dogs, Roos and Saints bringing up the rear.

A caveat here: all of these numbers, particularly when looking at them over the course of a season, need to be taken with a grain of salt.

The Western Bulldogs having a Fixture Rating of (-10) means – as a club – their SuperCoach scores might be 10 points worse off over the course of 22 games. 

Needless to say, that’s not enough to lean on to make big decisions about your starting lineup.

Where it can be helpful is in deciding how many players from each team you want; can you really afford to have 4+ Bulldogs players (Bontempelli, Macrae, Dunkley, Treloar) in your side, knowing that they have the toughest draw in the league?

And, conversely, should Carlton’s comparatively soft draw make you feel more comfortable about loading up on Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh in your midfield?

The answer to both of those questions is …. maybe!

Stay tuned for plenty more AFL SuperCoach content over the course of this pre-season.

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