History says that 12 wins and a draw guarantee an AFL finals berth.

This is based simply on the fact that since GWS joined the League in 2012 to complete the 18-team structure no team with 12 wins and a draw has missed the top eight.

It excludes the 17-game Covid season of 2020, and in 2013 uses the top eight before were banned from the finals due to the supplements saga. So they are considered to have finished seventh with a 14-8 record,

The complicating factor is the increase in the home-and-away season to 23 last year after it had been 22 games (except in 2020) prior to that.

So the only like-for-like data is season 2023, when Sydney claimed eighth spot with 12 wins and a draw, and the Western Bulldogs finished ninth with just 12 wins.

But for the sake of this exercise, we’ll work on 12 wins and a draw as the target.

On that basis, the Lions, now seventh at 9-1-6 and on a League-high five game winning streak, need three wins from the last seven games to play finals.

And for the real optimists, the most likely cut-off point for fourth place and the double-chance is 15 wins and a draw. Or for the Lions six wins from the last seven games.


The historical data is not quite as definitive. In 2016 Adelaide and West Coast went 16-6 and had percentages of 138.3 and 130.0 but finished fifth and sixth after Sydney, Geelong and Hawthorn (17-5) shared top spot, and GWS took fourth at 16.6 and a percentage of 143.1.

And in 2022 Fremantle went 15-1-7 but had to be content with fifth behind minor premiers Geelong (18-4) and a three-way tie for second between Melbourne, Sydney and Collingwood (16-6).

The evenness and unpredictability of the 2024 competition makes this more difficult to forecast, but at Round 17, after 16 games, Essendon are fourth with a 10-1-5 record. They’ve won 65.6% of games. And 65.6% of 23 games is 15.1.

Regardless, we’re at that point of the season where everyone starts to think about who plays who and where in the run home.

It’s reasonable to assume that the bottom five sides – St.Kilda, Adelaide, West Coast, North Melbourne and Richmond - cannot make it. But that leaves 13 with at least a mathematical chance.

Only ladder leaders Sydney, at 13-3 despite back-to-back losses, are a mathematical lock for the top eight. So three wins separate 2nd-placed Carlton and 13th-placed Hawthorn.

While the only thing certain in the run home is uncertainty, there are two factors to consider  – interstate travel and games against the bottom five.

The Lions have three interstate trips in the last seven weeks – West Coast in Perth this week, St.Kilda at Marvel Stadium in 21 and Collingwood at the MCG in Round 23. Plus the Round 20 drive to Car. West Coast and StKilda are their only opponents out of contention.

GWS have the toughest travel schedule, with two trips to Melbourne and one each to Brisbane, Canberra (which is theoretically a home game) and Ballarat.

Gold Coast have four interstate trips – two to Melbourne and one each to Sydney and Perth – and at the other end of the scale Carlton, Collingwood and Essendon just one each. Carlton play West Coast in Perth, Collingwood play Sydney at the SCG (and six games at the MCG), and Essendon will finish with Round 24 at the Gabba.

Geelong (4), Carlton (3) and Hawthorn (3)  have most games against the bottom five, while Fremantle, GWS and Collingwood (1) and Melbourne none at all.

The other key factor is the interlinked consideration of draws and percentage. Barring any further draws, Fremantle, Essendon and Brisbane of the 12 sides chasing seven finals spots are in a group separate to the other nine.

So it is a good thing that Brisbane’s percentage of 120.4, second only to Sydney’s 140.8, is superior to Fremantle (115.1) and Essendon (99.9).

That’s the raw data ahead of Round 18. It could all be different next week, but the ‘run home’ rules are specific – you need a starting point. Even if it changes weekly.

The fixture for the top 13 sides, with their current premiership points and percentage, is:-

1stSYDNEY (52 – 140.8) – NM (SCG), Bris (Gabba), WB (SCG), Port (AO), Coll (SCG), Ess (Dock), Adel (SCG)

2ndCARLTON (44 – 116.1) – WB (Marvel), NM (Marvel), Port (Marvel), Coll (MCG), Haw (MCG), WC (PS), StK (Marvel).

3rd - FREMANTLE (42 – 115.1) – Haw (Launc), Melb (PS), WC (PS), Ess (MCG), Geel (PS), GWS (SS), Port (PS).

4thESSENDON (42 – 99.9) – Melb (MCG), Adel (Marvel), StK (Marvel), Frem (MCG), GC (Marvel), Syd (Marvel), Bris (Gabba)

5thGEELONG (40 – 109.7) – Coll (MCG), WB (KP), NM (Hobart), Adel (KP), Frem (PS), StK (Marvel), WC (KP).

6thPORT ADELAIDE (40 – 104.8) – GC (Car), Rich (AO), Carl (Marvel), Syd (AO), Melb (MCG), Adel (AO), Frem (PS).

7thBRISBANE (38 – 120.4) –  WC (PS), Syd (Gabba), GC (Car), StK (Marvel), GWS (Gabba), Coll (MCG), Ess (Gabba).

8thGWS GIANTS (36 - 108.6) –  Rich (MCG), GC (SS), Melb (MCG), Haw (Canb), Bris (Gabba), Frem (SS), WB (Ballarat).

9thCOLLINGWOOD (36 – 104.5) – Geel (MCG), Haw (MCG), Rich (MCG), Carl (MCG), Syd (SCG), Bris (MCG), Melb (MCG).

10thMELBOURNE (32 – 104.4) – Ess (MCG), Frem (PS), GWS (MCG), WB (Marvel), Port (MCG), GC (Car), Coll (MCG).

11thW/BULLDOGS (32 – 114.8) – Carl (Marvel), Geel (KP), Syd (SCG), Melb (Marvel), Adel (AO), NM (Marvel), GWS (Ballarat).

12thGOLD COAST (32 -105.3) – Port (Car), GWS (SS), Bris (Car), WC (PS), Ess (Marvel), Melb (Car), Rich (MCG).

13thHAWTHORN (32 – 94.2) – Frem (Launc), Coll (MCG), Adel (AO), GWS (Canb),  Carl (MCG), Rich (MCG), NM (Launc).

Venue Abbreviations – Car (Carrara), PS (Perth Stadium), SS (Sydney Showgrounds at GWS), KP (Kardinia Park at Geelong). AO (Adelaide Oval), Launc (Launceston),