It might seem far too early to make sweeping judgments on Goulburn Valley League teams and if they are the real deal, but history tells us four rounds is plenty of evidence on which to base such calls.
Teams that start the season losing games of football typically continue to do that exact same thing through the rest of the campaign.
Award-winning column Outside The Box has a genuine addiction to crunching numbers and today’s batch of statistics are golden brown and fresh out of the oven.
We have been slaving away in the lab and the major questions that have been answered in today’s column are: how many wins does a team need at this stage of the season, and at the interleague bye, to play finals football?
OTB has a feeling some consumers might not like what they see.
Can 0-4 teams make GVL finals?
A major talking point to start the GVL season has been Rochester’s 0-4 start; while the Tigers have had a pretty tough run of opponents, a side pushing into finals would have pinched at least one of those games.
Not since 2005 has a team started the season 0-4 and played finals — a feat Rochester itself was able to pull off 14 years ago.
The 2005 season had Rochester win nine of its last 13 games and play finals, a campaign ended at the first hurdle in a 50-point loss to a Saad Saad-led Seymour.
But in the 13 seasons since, 22 teams have tried and 22 teams have failed to make the finals after starting the season 0-4, meaning this crop of Tigers would need to buck a serious historical trend to make the post-season.
How many wins does a team need by the interleague bye to remain a chance of playing finals?
It is fair to say that if you do not have three wins by this year’s interleague bye, you are highly unlikely to play finals.
Since 2010, just three of 42 teams that have won two games or less in the first six games of the season have made finals, meaning you have just a seven per cent chance to do so with a 2-4 record or worse.
If it is worse — 1-5 or 0-6 — you are essentially finished for the season, with none of the 20 teams in that situation in the past nine seasons able to win enough games for finals.
Two case studies in this area this season are Seymour and Euroa, two teams that did not play finals last year.
Both started the season with a brutal run, but the Lions at 2-2 are far better placed to play finals than the 1-3 Magpies.
Based on OTB’s historical model, the Lions have a 46 per cent chance of playing finals, while the Magpies have a 22 per cent chance.
With Kyabram and Tatura on the menu — two games on form the Magpies enter as underdogs — Euroa could realistically be 1-5 at interleague and with its hopes of playing finals virtually dashed.
What about the top of the table?
Well, I am glad you asked.
As if they have not already, Kyabram players should cancel their September plans because they will be playing finals — each of the 13 teams since 2010 that have started the season 4-0 have made the finals, most of which by topping the table.
Teams at 3-1 — this season Shepparton, Echuca and Benalla — make finals 75 per cent of the time, meaning plenty has to go wrong to miss.
As stated in the Seymour example, a 2-2 start nets you a slightly below 50:50 chance, yet with quality football you are set to do whatever you want with the season — Kyabram topped the league from 2-2 in 2010 and 2013, playing in the grand final both seasons and winning the flag in the latter.
How many wins does it take to make the top six?
If you want to be specific, 9.428.
Since 2005, that is the average amount of wins the sixth-place finisher has accrued.
Putting it simply, you are probably going to play finals if you win 10 games — only four of the past 14 seasons would percentage even come into it if you win 10 games.
Does the eight change much after the interleague bye?
Since 2010, there have never been more than two changes to the top six after round six.
On average, there have been 1.1 changes, meaning the next few weeks will be vital as teams jockey for position.
With highly-touted teams such as Tatura, Seymour, Euroa and Rochester all outside the top six, it could still be unlikely more than two of these teams make the six.
Are there any factors about this season that could mean this data does not hold up?
As far as OTB sees it, a particularly tight competition this season could mean more impressive Chautauqua-like runs from the back of the field are possible.
For example, Mooroopna sits in 11th, with a low percentage (58.7) and some poor performances behind it, yet is just one game back from fifth on the ladder.
At 0-4, Rochester will likely end the weekend ninth should it put a good win past the Shepparton Swans, and with Shepparton United the weekend after, could hit interleague 2-4, still with a glimmer of finals hope.
And while it is still early, it does not appear just as yet there are any awful teams, which means upsets galore could be on the cards.
Due to this, nine games and a good percentage could be enough to sneak in.
●Senior sports journalist’s note: If you plan to rebroadcast or tell your friends any of these statistics, please make sure to credit OTB Data.