It is common knowledge that whoever is ahead at the end of a game is the one who gets to celebrate. It’s what creates frantic final moments and plays that define careers.
With that in mind, good teams get in front and stay in front, especially in our great game. It’s also common knowledge that the best position to win from is in front. It’s what makes teams like Geelong and West Coast – despite their losses over the weekend – so hard to beat. They make you chase them down and play their game.
For the past two years, teams that have finished in the top two spots of the AFL’s ‘time in front ladder’ have taken the flag. Richmond (60%) and West Coast (59%) both finished second. If you look at this year’s time in front standings, you will essentially see the finals bound teams towards the top. Again, good teams get in front and stay in front.
However, there will always be rule breakers. In recent memory, there is no better example than the 2016 Bulldogs. They finished seventh, powered through the finals, and eventually beat out Sydney on a glorious September afternoon to take home the premiership.
Now, three years later, the Bulldogs are set to be rule breakers again. They’ve won six of their last eight games and have surged into eighth. They’re the only bottom rung finals team who look like they deserve to be there.
Except if you go by the time in front metric, they don’t.
They’re 13th on the ladder with a paltry 38% time in front. They’re surrounded by bottom half teams like Sydney, Fremantle and Carlton. Essendon is also down there at 11th, with 40%, but anyone watching the outfit in black and red this season will understand why.
The Bulldogs are set to square off against a struggling Crows team to sure up their finals spot this Sunday in Ballarat. While preparing, Luke Beveridge’s team won’t have these standings in mind. For seasons, as with games, it’s the team in front at the end that gets to celebrate. Going into Round 23, the Doggies will be thinking of 2016 and hoping to remind everyone of that.
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