AS a side with premiership ambitions and a ticket into the finals there is no point in playing your best footy in round 15.
The three Ballarat Football League finals fancies in action on Saturday evidently didn’t, at least not for four quarters, in their victories over three teams that won’t make it this year.
But they did enough.
Or did they?
In each case, Darley, Sunbury and East Point had virtually disposed of Bacchus Marsh, Melton South and Sebastopol respectively before half-time and were well on their way to having big wins.
In each case the underdog fought back and outscored its opponent in either the third (Bacchus Marsh) or fourth (Melton South and Sebastopol) quarter, to reduce the margin. While credit for this belongs to the three teams outside the six for battling on, the cost for the victors was a potential boost in percentage.
The finals six has a strange set of permutations and combinations based on who wins what in the first week of finals.
Without doing a detailed statistical analysis but based on recent history, the team that manages to lob into third position on the ladder after the end of the home and away season is several times more likely to win a premiership than the one that finishes fourth. Team number four’s greatest hope is an elimination final upset where team six knocks off team three.
The difference between four and five, meanwhile, is a home (sort of) final.
Sunbury’s less than spectacular final quarter (outscored by the Panthers six goals to two) is less likely to hurt the eastern Lions. The men from Clarke Oval already have a healthy percentage of 160.6.
In any event, the equation is simple: if they beat North Ballarat City (and either Ballarat or Redan), they will likely finish second. If they don’t beat North City or Redan, then percentage alone probably won’t save them from dropping out of the top three.
For Darley and East Point it’s more complicated. Depending how the sums come up, the difference between Darley and East Point finishing third, fourth or fifth could be decided by percentage.
Redan finished last year’s home and away season third and won the premiership. North Ballarat City finished the home and away in fourth, missing third by just two per cent, and was forced to do the final series the hard way with a sequence of sudden death finals. It makes a difference.
There remains a chance, depending on games involving teams two through five over the next few weeks, that percentage will have limited impact on the final finishing order. But if percentage ultimately decides which team finishes third, one or more teams could look back to round 15 and ponder “what if?”.