Fixture Analysis: Early Draws & MID Premo Selections

Written by Gunboat Diplomacy on March 10 2023

When I had the pleasure of linking up with FT in person last year, we of course got down to SC rather quickly. He said to me “And that’s the thing. *sips drink* You’ve go start the MIDs with juiciest fixtures and then pass and target the ones who will drop in price”. It’ll sound like a trite observation to most but my mind was blown. I’d always just grabbed the sexist, most expensive MIDs who I backed for spots 1-5 in the Top 8 and looked at byes but it was truly an strategic eureka moment for me. I drove home thinking about what a delight FT was, how annoyingly good Fremantle now were and how I was going to approach selecting midfielders in 2023. Accordingly, my biggest off-season research task has been a fixture analysis of all the big premos; who they play, how they go against them, who the best and worst opponents are and venue histories. The practice match reports and general analytical pieces I do are usually a heavy undertakings but this is easily my magnum opus. Had to go through each club, look at their profile, check tape and comb through their tags in 2022 and then assemble all the data on early fixtures. It’s been a massive help for me all pre-season, hopefully it can do the same for you in affirming or repudiating your premo MID selections.

To business!

Opposition Midfield Difficulty By Club

We’ll begin by cataloging all 18 teams midfield difficulty as opposition. Concluding whether they tag by either “YES”, “NO” or “OCC” for occasionally and then classifying their density as a opposition; meaning how dense/impervious that side’s midfield is to high opp. midifeld SC totals. The ideal conclusion for an opponent is to be a non-tagging, low density midfield.


And we begin with just that! The Crows, in strength or weakness, remain perhaps the best midfield opposition for premium midfielders, letting off large scores on a smaller, fast deck at AAMI and all but refusing to tag even midfielders who have taken them for a spin prior. Recall Satan basically double tonning every time he ventures to A-Town. Their smaller sized on ball brigade ranked 15th for disposals but tend to force a lot of repeat stoppages through decent contested work (9th) and top notch pressure and tackling (3rd). Only tagged twice last year, both times against the Blues. They made a feeble attempt to contain Cripps in Round 8, where he still dunked on them with a 151, and then tried to clamp down on Saad late, who still also tonned. It’s just not a priority for Nicks’ rebuilding side. You see one of your boys coming up against the Crows, there’s your C.

  • Density: LOW
  • Tag: NO


One of the competition’s premier midfields, the Lions will only become stronger with the arrival of Josh Dunkley; from whom signature two way running, tackling and defensive work will be of great relief to Neale. High density, only to improve with Dunks. They’re one of the lower propensity tagging sides but note they have deployed Berry, Zorko and Answerth to players who’ve previously taken them to town. They gave Zerrett and Danger looks early but didn’t deploy a single OB tag for the rest of the H&A season – giving Satan a look in that first final. To start the season, there’s no need to worry but come the back end of the season a straight C on Miller or Satan after a 35 touch previous outing would be dicey.

  • Density: HIGH
  • Tag: OCC


Nearly two thirds into the season the Blues were #1 contested possession, stoppage and overall disposal side in the competition and shaped up the most restrictive midfield side despite not employing a tagger. Their midfield dominance, and Top 8 hopes really, dissipated with key personnel losses in Hewett and Kennedy as well as Cripps getting worn down by strains and niggles on account of his high impact playstyle. Still, for a chunk of the season they were the highest density and most restrictive midfield. The lot of them lining up fresh with Pittonet will see them reinstated as one of the most restrictive midfields.

  • Density: HIGH
  • Tag: NO


Emulating a key component of Richmond’s era of success, the Pies opted for a high octane, slingshot style of play last year; allowing them to negate the effects of a weak CB, CP and stoppage profile. Accordingly, they let off some phenomenal C scores last year: Satan 141, Miller 160 & 153 and Laird 154 to name a few. Macrae has designated those areas as the first order of business for improvement in 2023 and the arrival of Titch will certainly help toward that end. That goal almost nudges them into medium density, but for now we’ll stick with them as low density and a good opponent for your premium midfielders. Similar to the Tigers, the Pies paid no mind to opposition midfielders – allowing them to run riot and forcing turnovers post-stoppage and remain one the best C opponents.

  • Density: LOW
  • Tag: NO


The Bombers were one of the capital C opponents last year, gifting Satan a 146, christening Neale with a Round 2 198, Mills a 167, Brayshaw a 132 and Dunks a 139. They will again enter 2023 as incredibly low density side despite somehow having a decent midfield themselves. The catch? They began to aggressively employ tags late last year with Caldwell and Guelfi, with Caldwell being quite adept at a negating role. Recall Neale and LDU getting merced for 60s and Miller and Cripps given looks for flat tons. New coaches also tend to try and stem the bleeding as the first order of business, so expect the propensity for tags to persist. Low density but tag users make for a frustrating opponent to read, watch them let a MID off the hook one week for 150 then drill down on Neale for 75. Ideal for VCs.

  • Density: LOW
  • Tag: YES


There’s a few sides like Freo: strong midfield but not particularly restrictive, back themselves and open up the contest. Quite similar to the Dogs. Perfectly fine opponent to bat into. The only player they tag is Satan, switching Aish to him after HT in Round 11 and then starting on him in Round 20 for an 87. They have the fear of god put into them by Satan but they’re still ostensibly a non-tagging side.

  • Density: MEDIUM
  • Tag: NO


I think a lot of us, myself included, associate Geelong’s dominace with capping midfield scores but that really hasn’t been the case with most midfielders hitting their average of 120-130 against the Cats without issue last year. The Cats really re-invented their contested game last year and that became a key metric for gameday success, so they took away scope for the insane off the chain MID scores that uninterrutped CPs allow for. They have also employed very match-up specific tags, including Blicavs starting in CB on big body MIDs and a spare winger coming onto a hot midfielder after HT. We’ll class them as a medium density and an occasional user of tags, by no means a red flag but temper your expectations C-ing into them given their quality as an outfit.

  • Density: MEDIUM
  • Tag: OCC


They’ve got a superb ascendant midfield that could very well be competition best this year. No on ball tags despite experimentation with Rowell and they’ve worked out system deficiencies preventing both on field an SC blowouts. Can still be hit up with 120s but very close to that Carlton, Swans and Lions bracket.

  • Density: HIGH
  • Tag: NO


No two ways about, the Giants love to tag. Historically they used De Boer to savage of teams each week but even after his departure they’ve still retained a penchant for punishing possession getters – I should get +5 SC for that aliliteration. Last year Miller, Brayshaw and B. Crouch got looked at across Rounds 3, 4 and 6 for 68, 86 and 87 repsectively. While they did put the negating role cue in the rack after Neale beasted his way through an Ash tag for 164 and 39 touches, they brought it back with a vengeance for the last month of the reason: clamping Warner to a 65, Zerrett to 55, Libba to 68 and Brayshaw to 89 with what were easily the most devastating and restrictive tags of the season. In that interim between tagging however the Giants overall decline as a side and one dimensional all sizzle and no steak midfield dropped them from a once high to medium density side – they did all look phenomenal in the practice match though.  Although Kingsley hails from the Tigers’ tag free system, the side’s rebuilding profile and an existing armoury of players who can tag mean we’ve got to approach GWS as a high instance user of tags despite their declining density.

  • Density: MED
  • Tag: YES


Tactically tagged wingers and livewires four times in Langdon, Dawson, Bolton and Smith and then went for OB scalps another four times; gunning for Neale, Kelly, Simpkin and Miller and containing them all. What’s troubling is that of the 8 times the Hawks tagged they won 6 of those games and the tags themselves were devastatingly effective. Lowest density midfield and let off the largest MID scores in 2022 but that defensive switch now a permanent fixture in Mitchell’s control room – aim for VCs, note the Hawks 22 that week and ideally back bigger body MIDs rather than smaller frames for the C against them. Maginness used in a negating role on Daicos from the get go in the practice match, Hawks to easily go from OCC to HIGH in the tagging department.

  • Density: LOW
  • Tag: OCC


Despite their truly immense midfield, the Dees are not all that restrictive of a unit; opening up the contest, relishing repeat stoppage dominance and paying no mind to cheap uncontested accumulation. That inherent quality does preclude them from being hit up for the ungodly scores that the Hawks, Dons, etc., cough up but still decent each week, particularly in close games where there’ll be plenty of scaling on offer.

  • Density: MED
  • Tag: NO


Very little commentary to provide. It’s North. They are…North. Worst side in the comp, barren list and give off a huge slice of the 3300 SC pie each week. Basically an auto VC/C each week. As for tags, they tried their hand at Neale in Round 3 after he came off 41 touches against the Dons and gave Jelly a look a few months later but otherwise didn’t tag.

  • Density: LOW
  • Tag: NO


Port were formerly an incredibly dense midfield. But their decline over the last few years, the conducive proportions of the Adelaide Oval to MID scoring and stints without a traditional ruck have meant they’re now very much a middle of the road density side. The slow removal of Boak from the midfield to facilitate the integration of Rozee, a smaller frame, and JHF, a petulant free against machine, should see them remain at this density, maybe even less, in 2023. Willem Drew has been their go to defensive player and hasn’t developed outside of that role. He, however, is only really capable of drilling down on smaller frame opponents; capping Walsh, Zerrett, Laird and (somehow) Petracca last year. Still perfectly fine to take big body MIDs into them, but would maybe pass on say a Brayshaw into them.

  • Density: MEDIUM
  • Tag: OCC


The Tigers are the real wildcard in profiling all 18 sides. Historically, they’ve been an auto-VC into. Their surge system, total disregard for opposition accumulation numbers and preparedness to concede clearances and force turnovers through pressure have made them a punching bag for SC MIDs time and time again. Some of their greatest hits last year included Satan 168, Miller 135, Cripps 132 and Macrae 158. The question this year is could their profile change with the arrival of Taranto and Hopper? Basically replenishes their OB brigade with two young, emerging MIDs who cover extraction and contested work relatively well. They’re not A graders by any means but the Tigers look to have realized some investment, both in terms of personnel and system, needs to be made into midfield equalization. No issues taking captains against them but just note their profile might change to one not so leaky and lucrative as seasons passed.

  • Density: LOW
  • Tag: NO

St Kilda

Let Bont and Brayshaw off with 180s last year and with Steele not yet back to his best and unsupported by a strong back-up cast, they’re very a much low density midfield. The fun ends there however…the Saints developed a real zest for tagging late last year, running negating roles from Rounds 18 to the season’s close. Two of those tags were to HBs in Dale and Stewart but T. Kelly, Newcombe, Neale and Warner all got shredded by a hard tag from Windhager or Owens and then a directive from all MIDs present at the contest to watch them. The return of one of the game’s best defensive minds in Ross Lyon is not going to assuage that propensity – in fact, it’ll be safe to assume each week that the Saints will open with a tag. Would only VC into them if your options are thin and there’s a matchup where you are certain a MID is just going to smoke them and by buoyed a large margin win.

  • Density: LOW
  • Tag: YES


  • Density: MEDIUM
  • Tag: OCC

The Swans are tricky to pin down. They have an incredibly versatile list with one of the most astute, reactive gameday coaching panels and strong emergent midfield but also one staffed by high variance players like Mills, Parker and Warner. Accordingly, they contained guys like Satan, Miller and Bont to flat tons, gave away standard 130s to Laird and Zerrett and then got blasted by Neale for a 187. They pioneered and perfected the HB tag last year and didn’t run an OB tag post-bye but the aforementioned level of variance and vaguery means they’re not really an ideal match up. Hickey being the most restrictive opposition ruck also doesn’t help.

West Coast

Despite us being terrible and giving away a large chuck of the 3300 pie each week, the Eagles were surprisingly dense midfield last year – low density everywhere else, but pretty dense on ball. Post clearance we were cooked but a dormant veteran on ball brigade held most of the comp’s best MIDs to flat 120s and even a few 90s. It was score involvements and post-clearance work that allowed opposition sides, MIDs included, to really rack up big numbers. No firm tags since Hutchings has retired and the odd use of a 1st or 2nd year kid to opponent after a red hot first half. The fact Nic Nat won’t line up Round 1 also a major boon for VC/C-ing into the Eagles early.

  • Density: HIGH
  • Tag: NO


The Dogs’ density need not be discussed: the consistency of Macrae, the coalface craft of Libba, the expanse and extraction of Bont – sublime. Dunkley shipping up to Lions will leave a bit of a tackling and defensive void but the talent of the aforementioned 3 Big Dogs and then ability to inject Smith, Treloar and hungry kids in there mean the Dogs will remain a high density midfield. While high density opponents are obviously a poor MID match up, the Dogs tend to force a lot of repeat stoppages and ratchet up the contested gears of the game – creating match conditions with a lot of midfield economy. They often then take all that economy and are very restrictive but for MIDs who can square up there’s scores to be had: Neale 135, Mills 138, Petracca 163, Cripps 162.

  • Density: HIGH
  • Tag: NO


The Crows, Pies, Hawks and Roos are the best opponents for your big MIDs to crash into, with the Eagles and Dons not far behind. The Tigers have for the longest time also been amongst those juicy opponents but their profile may change this year – they’re very much a wildcard. The density of the Lions and Blues and then the strong tagging profile of the Saints and variance of Sydney make those four sides the worst. Venue remains of paramount importance. Obviously, players prefer to play and score best at home but also have interstate grounds where they tear it up. The Adelaide Oval, with it’s smaller proportions and fast deck, produces some of the best midfield scores and has played host to more 180s and double tons on a per game measurement than any other ground. All 18 sides will be playing in South Australia, with six games to be played at the Adelaide Oval.

Midfield Premium Fixtures

Next, all the available premium MIDs are laid out by their first 8 opponents, their last 3 scores against those opponents and their 3 round average at that venue. Combine the fixture data with the opponent analysis to select the best midfielders to the start the season.

Opponent [H/A]: L3 v opponent [V: L3 av. @ venue]

Rory LAIRD (ADEL, $703.9k)

  • GWS (A): 116, 75, 122 [GS: 92]
  • Tigers (H): 120, 92, 108 [AO: 125]
  • Port (H): 133, 93, 119 [AO: 125]
  • Dockers (H): 94, 107, 95 [AO: 125]
  • Blues (H): 144, 123, 109 [AO: 125]
  • Hawks (A): 125, 178, 111 [UTAS: 111]
  • Pies (H): 154, 144, 185 [AO: 125]
  • Cats (A): 118, 102, 120 [GMS: 102]

Clayton OLIVER (MELB, $699.8k)

  • Dogs (H): 96, 112, 144 [MCG: 139]
  • Lions (A): 118, 140, 94 [G: 114]
  • Swans (H): 134, 125, 130 [MCG: 139]
  • Eagles (A): 99, 98, 99 [OS: 94]
  • Dons (A): 146, 105, 112 [AO: 121]
  • Tigers (H): 168, 114, 96 [MCG: 139]
  • Roos (H): 178, 116, 137 [MCG: 139]
  • Suns (A): 121, 166, 106 [HBS: 111]

Lachie NEALE (BRIS, $676.2k)

  • Port (A): 140, 130, 118 [AO: 111]
  • Dees (H): 104, 111, 84 [G: 122]
  • Dogs (A): 135, 85, 167 [MRVL: 123]
  • Pies (H): 117, 88, 89 [G: 122]
  • Roos (A): 105, 156, 134 [AH: N/A]
  • GWS (A): 121, 164, 87 [MO: 103]
  • Dockers (H): 87, 171, 79 [G: 122]
  • Blues (A): 138, 96, 142 [MRVL: 123]

Touk MILLER (GCS, $662.4k)

  • Swans (H): 122, 148, 146 [MET: 138]
  • Dons (A): 110, 103, 65 [MRVL: 107]
  • Cats (H): 125, 133, 81 [MET: 138]
  • Saints (A): 107, 115, 109 [MRVL: 107]
  • Dockers (A): 130, 127, 111 [NO: N/A]
  • Roos (H): 104, 167, 123 [MET: 138]
  • Tigers (A): 135, 153, 124 [MARV: 107]
  • Dees (H): 140, 142, 142 [MET: 138]

Callum MILLS (SYD, $642.4k)

  • Suns (A): 60, 83, 136 [MET: 123]
  • Hawks (H): 214, 105, 110 [SCG: 115]
  • Dees (A): 113, 145, 89 [MCG: 114]
  • Port (H): 138, 111, 104 [SCG: 115]
  • Tigers (A): 117, 109, 173 [AO: 118]
  • Cats (A): 147, 101, 113 [GMS: 94]
  • GWS (H): 120, 84, 84 [SCG: 115]
  • Pies (A): 128, 100, 74 [MCG: 114]

Andrew BRAYSHAW (FREO, $615.6k)

  • Saints (A): 132, 189, 112 [MRVL: 101]
  • Roos (H): 134, 112, 86 [OS: 113]
  • Eagles (H): 106, 96, 121 [OS: 113]
  • Crows (A): 127, 117, 144 [AO: 108]
  • Suns (A): 94, 92, 78 [NO: N/A]
  • Dogs (H): 93, 120, 77 [OS: 113]
  • Lions (A): 113, 93, 70 [G: 79]
  • Hawks (H): 135, 91, 48 [OS: 113]

Jack STEELE (STK, $604.4k)

  • Dockers (H): 109, 111, 129 [MRVL: 97]
  • Dogs (H): 133, 99, 137 [MRVL: 97]
  • Dons (A): 132, 92, 100 [MCG: 118]
  • Suns (H): 131, 110, 124 [MRVL: 97]
  • Pies (A): 87, 154, 73 [AO: 129]
  • Blues (H): 107, 158, 136 [MRVL: 97]
  • Port (H): 122, 145, 105 [MRVL: 97]
  • Roos (H): 154, 128, 109 [MRVL: 97]

Marcus BONTEMPELLI (WBD, $639.5k)

  • Dees (A): 161, 105, 136 [MCG: 126]
  • Saints (H): 181, 159, 94 [MRVL: 120]
  • Lions (H): 108, 116, 138 [MRVL: 120]
  • Tigers (A): 136, 107, 96 [MCG: 126]
  • Port (A): 67, 128, 114 [AO: 134]
  • Dockers (A): 100, 149, 107 [OS: 134]
  • Hawks (H): 115, 136, 114 [MRVL: 120]
  • GWS (A): 100, 120, 127 [MO: 110]

Jack MACRAE (WBD, $634.4k)

  • Dees (A): 95, 133, 146 [MCG: 146]
  • Saints (H): 128, 149, 93 [MRVL: 104]
  • Lions (H): 104, 137, 183 [MRVL: 104]
  • Tigers (A): 158, 107, 162 [G: 146]
  • Port (A): 144, 113, 115 [AO: 120]
  • Dockers (A): 102, 129, 85 [OS: 123]
  • Hawks (H): 99, 123, 136 [MRVL: 104]
  • GWS (A): 114, 155, 140 [MO: 121]

Zach MERRETT (ESS, $617.5k)

  • Hawks (H): 108, 93, 105 [MCG: 141]
  • Suns (H): 136, 107, 137 [MRVL: 116]
  • Saints (H): 91, 115, 97 [MCG: 141]
  • GWS (H): 71, 71, 131 [MRVL: 116]
  • Dees (A): 147, 119, 120 [AO: 110]
  • Pies (H): 133, 123, 120 [MCG: 141]
  • Cats (H): 113, 107, 122 [MCG: 141]
  • Port (H): 73, 130, 91 [AO: 110]

Darcy PARISH (ESS, $610.8k)

  • Hawks (H): 139, 115, 99 [MCG: 89]
  • Suns (H): 112, 114, 80 [MRVL: 112]
  • Saints (H): 112, 100, 74 [MCG: 89]
  • GWS (H): 120, 49, 115 [MRVL: 112]
  • Dees (A): 97, 121, 95 [AO: 90]
  • Pies (H): 133, 74, 162 [MCG: 89]
  • Cats (H): 99, 190, 79 [MCG: 89]
  • Port (H): 87, 142, 52 [AO: 90]

Patrick CRIPPS (CARL, $611.9k)

  • Tigers (H): 79, 132, 88 [MCG: 107]
  • Cats (H): 84, 88, 123 [MCG: 107]
  • GWS (A): 118, 83, 57 [GS: 73]
  • Roos (H): 138, 75, 75 [MRVL: 104]
  • Crows (A): 146, 151, 65 [AO: 119]
  • Saints (H): 98, 88, 116 [OS: 104]
  • Eagles (A): 92, 81, 93 [MRVL: 101]
  • Lions (H): 104, 64, 26 [MRVL: 104]

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18 thoughts on “Fixture Analysis: Early Draws & MID Premo Selections”

  1. Outstanding analytical research, GD.

    Everyone should bookmark this post for reference throughout the season.

    Superb effort. You have gone to another level with your posts this year, Gunboat. Impressive collection of work.


  2. Great work GD. Interesting analysis.
    To clarify your player stats. Your headings included [V: L3 av. v opponent] am I correct in saying that the “v opponent” part of that is not applicable? It would appear that it is based only on the venue not the opponent.


  3. Excellent stuff GD, looking at your stats brings comfort with my current selections of premium Mids.


  4. Not taking much info for Parish, since he had an injury at the MCG which reduced his average. A few scores then taken from before he hit his breakout point


  5. Holy hell batman.

    Do you even sleep Gunboat ?

    When I made that somewhat drunken comment I never imagined it would lead to something like this. I usually have a brief look at upcoming opponents when trying decide between the best mid selections. This is taking things to the next level. You have put in a mountain of work to accumulate all this data and put it forward in such a meaningful and concise manner. So much so that I now really want Neale over Brayshaw. Thanks for that 😉

    Just wanted to say thanks again for all you do for this site mate. You have excelled this pre season and I can’t wait to see what sort of a side you have put together. I may have to book another trip to Melbourne this year as this bromance is just getting started.. lol


    1. GD, firstly this is tremendous!!
      Its all appreciated.

      Secondly who are these “sexist” mids you speak of that you start that you usually select..


  6. Incredible.

    Extending this idea beyond the premo mids (which I’m guessing you have planned in great detail already GD), the early run is why I’m considering a bunch of Dockers. Brayshaw, Fyfe and even Liam Henry as a slightly more expensive cash cow:

    Saints (away)
    North (home)
    Eagles (derby)
    Crows (away)
    Suns (home)
    Dogs (home)
    Lions (away)
    Hawks (home)

    That’s 4 of GD’s identified 6 ‘soft’ teams in the the first eight rounds, and five games on their home track. The Lions game will be tough and the Dogs will be hard to beat but do give up scores from a Supercoach perspective.


    1. I see those soft teams, but then 2 are in round 1 and 2. Those rounds only account in 3rd average for 2 rounds. So they might have a great 1st round but that drops off in the 4th round so it only has a small effect in price rising. From rounds 3-7 only 1 is easy with the rest being hard but most without a tagger.

      I see more in someone from Sydney. They may not have the best Rd 1 but then is eases out with no hard matches and then someone like Gulden shouldn’t cop the tag



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