Leaping Kangaroos

The Kangaroos, often considered ‘un-sexy’, are putting together a pretty nice season. I’ve discussed previously that early wins in a season is strongly related to wins by seasons end and, although my current ELO rating for North Melbourne only ranks them as the 8th best team 1, their current bank of 7 wins gives them a good base to work off for the rest of the year. Indeed, simulating the season from here on in gives them around a 50% chance of making the top 4.

They are also a good chance to extend their ‘perfect’ start to the season 2 given they play Essendon and Carlton in the next two weeks, who occupy the last and 3rd last spots on my rankings ladder, respectively. Given the strong possibility of a team being on 9 wins and 0 losses, I thought I’d explore where this season fits historically to the ‘best starts to a season’ conversation.

Firstly, I’ve plotted below the distribution of games before we have a team that ‘loses’ its perfect record. In other words, how many rounds did it take until we had no more undefeated teams left in the season. As we can see, for most seasons, this falls within the range of around 4-6 wins.

LastManStanding

In fact, across 119 seasons of VFL/AFL, only 26 teams have started the season with a better record than North Melbourne’s current streak of 7. They are shown below.

Clearly, there are three standouts –

  • Essendon’s 2000 campaign, where their only loss came against the 6th placed Bulldogs
  • St Kilda’s 2009 season, eventually losing to 8th place Essendon and,
  • Collingwood’s 1929 season, still the only “perfect” season in VLF/AFL history, albeit from an 18 game season.

bestStarts

Given North Melbournes two lowly upcoming opponents, they should certainly be confident of continuing this run. This week we give them a 73% chance of winning. The biggest stumbling block is obviously Sydney in round 10 (currently rank 3rd on my rankings). You can see the rest of season simulations here.

If they can get over Sydney (and Essendon/Carlton) to get to 10 wins without losing, that will be the equal 8th best start to the season in VFL/AFL history. No-one will be complaining about “unsexy” football then!

Notes:

  1. I suspect this is largely due to winning games by less than expected
  2. At least in teams of Win/Loss

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