The schedule will contribute to deciding who plays who in week one of the finals as well as where everyone finishes. Stats insider forecast each side’s difficulty using a formula involving opposition team rating and home ground advantage as well as other smaller metrics.
With the total being an overall difficulty aggregate of all matches yet to play, some of the results are likely to have a big effect on the final standings.
Naturally, Gold Coast have the hardest schedule as they travel three times and will play only sides above them on the ladder, including three top eight sides.
The Dogs and Blues come in next, with the Dogs travelling interstate to top eight teams twice and the Blues having three top eight sides remaining.
Four of the next five spots on the harder end of the spectrum are interstate clubs as they will all have to travel at least once and more likely twice in the run home.
Hawthorn is the neutral 9th place, with a game at both ends of the hardest and easiest categories as well as one either side of the middle ground.
It’s no surprise that six of the easiest nine teams are Victorian with the Demons, Cats, Tigers, Dons, Saints and Pies all rounding out the list.
However, coming in at a +1.9 differential on the aggregate is GWS. They face the Swans, Hawks and Dogs at home before facing the Suns in round 23. The Giants’ run home suggests they could be in line for a top four finish again despite their injuries and will be helped by Brisbane and West Coast sitting at the other end of the spectrum, with a much harder run home.
No game is easy in this competitive league but the next four rounds will play a large role in the finals, and ranking who has the best chance of having the first-round bye can be looked at in-depth through the fixture.