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The traditional AFL Ladder might be the single most important bit of footy information, but it offers precious little for AFL punters!

That’s why we take things to the next level with the AFL Line Ladder.

AFL Line Ladder: 2021 Final

The season is done and it’s the Bombers who emerge as the punters’ best friends, covering the line in 14 of their 22 matches. North Melbourne did likewise, a stunning result when you consider they finished dead-last on the AFL league ladder. It just shows how the AFL ladder can be misleading when it comes to betting at the line.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given their disappointing season compared to expectations, Richmond finished at the bottom of the line ladder with just eight covers from their 22 matches. More surprising is that they were joined there by Geelong, who – despite finishing in the top 4 on the ladder – were consistently overrated by the market at the line.

The AFL Ladder for Punters

The Line Ladder is a fairly simple premise: it’s the same as the regular AFL ladder but we measure performance against the closing betting line instead of the scoreboard.

For example, let’s say Collingwood were playing North Melbourne. The closing line is -9.5 (Collingwood) and +9.5 (North Melbourne.

Collingwood win the game by 20 points.

Collingwood covered the line by 10.5 points. So they record 1 cover, and their ‘Final margin v closing line’ figure is 10.5.

North Melbourne record 1 miss, and their ‘Final margin v closing line’ figure is -10.5.

Then those figures just accumulate through the season. The ladder is ranked first by covers, then by cumulative margin vs the closing line.

That’s all there is to it. It measures team performance, but in relation to the market. So you get a view of how well the betting market is performing in predicting each team’s results. A good example of this in 2019 was Carlton. For the first half of the year, their win and loss performance was awful. However, they were getting a lot closer to their opponents than the market thought they would, and very often covering the line. They consistently sat at or near the top of the line ladder despite being glued to the bottom of the league ladder. That’s the sort of information that is valuable as a punter.

AFL Line Ladder: Round 22

It’d appear the Bombers are back in front of the market again, having made light work of their last three closing lines. On the weekend they were given just a 21.5 point hurdle against the Suns, only to cruise to a 68-point win. Meanwhile their opponents this week, Collingwood, have missed their last two lines, and four of their last five. They had a five-goal head start against Brisbane, but were beaten by a whopping 85 points.

It’s a 21.5 point hurdle again for the Bombers this week with TopSport… on form, it’s not going to be enough of a head start for the Pies.

AFL Line Ladder: Round 21

The Kangaroos might be last on the official league ladder, but they’ve been the best performer for punters this season and hold the top spot on the line ladder. This week they take on another strong performer in the Swans.

Another big match of Round 21 will be the Western Bulldogs trying to bounce back from a disappointing loss when they take on the Hawks in their second-last game under Alistair Clarkson.

AFL Line Ladder: Round 20

Saturday afternoon at the MCG features a clash between two teams at opposite ends of the Line Ladder. The Kangas might be last on the traditional AFL ladder, but they’re the equal-best performing team for punters with an 11-6 record at the line. They take on reigning premiers Richmond who have the equal-worst record at 6-11 against the market.

A key match-up on Sunday sees the Swans (11-6 at the line) take on the disappointing Saints (8-9).

AFL Line Ladder: Round 19

Some interesting games this week…

Embattled Carlton have only covered two of their last eight lines. Meanwhile the Saints are beating the market – they’ve covered four of the last five.

St Kilda -12.5
$1.90 with TopSport

Essendon were doing great things for punters earlier this year, but they’ve clearly fallen into a bit of a hole in the past few weeks, covering just once in four games. Sydney are hot, with five covers in a row.

A real contrast in form here.

Sydney -18.5
$1.90 with TopSport

AFL Line Ladder: Round 18

Sydney leap to the top of the ladder, but North are the bigger story… they’re rooted to 18th place on the league ladder, but they continue to outperform the market. They’ve covered their last seven lines to sit equal top of the line ladder.

Form-wise, the Crows are one side to be very wary of. They’ve missed their part three lines by 38.5, 38.5 and 30.5 points to take a sharp drop down the line ladder.

AFL Line Ladder: Round 17

We’ve got a new Line Ladder leader for 2021… Essendon are officially the best-performed team of the year at the line after their trouncing of Adelaide. Their lead is only on points, with a total of six teams all having an impressive 10 covers from their 16 matches. Essendon are facing another one of them, North Melbourne, this week. North have covered their last six lines and 9 of the last 10. That’s a very tough one to pick!

Much more straight forward (on season form) is Brisbane vs Richmond. The Tigers are rock-bottom on the line ladder with only five covers for the season, while Brisbane are in that top six with 10 covers… making them an attractive pick.
Brisbane -13.5

AFL Line Ladder: Round 16

Going on line ladder form, there’s one particularly interesting matchup this weekend.

West Coast are in shocking form against the market, having missed their last two lines by an incredible 59.5 and 89.5 points. They come up against North who, despite having a poor year on field, are going alright against the market: they’ve covered their last five in a row. 26.5 points might not look like much for West Coast at home, but North may present some value here.
North Melbourne +26.5

AFL Line Ladder: Round 15

Interesting match-ups this weekend:

Geelong versus Essendon speaks for itself. The Bombers are up to second on the line ladder, and Geelong languish in last. The Cats have only covered one of their last five lines, while Essendon have only missed once in the past seven. The numbers say that the Cats shouldn’t be such heavy favourites.
Essendon +25.5

North Melbourne vs the Bulldogs is a genuinely tough one. The Roos are flying at the line, having covered 7 of the past 8. The Bulldogs are, of course, the Line Ladder Leaders and 5/8 in that period. North are a chance here, but you’re brave if you take this on!
North +50.5

AFL Line Ladder: Round 14

Some interesting match-ups this weekend:

Melbourne are flying but the Bombers are actually in better form versus the market, having covered 5 of their past 6 lines… while the Dees are 3-3 against the line in that time.
Essendon +23.5

North Melbourne have covered their past three lines (and 6 out of their past 7), while Gold Coast have missed their past two and are 3-4 over the same period.
North -5.5

Carlton have only covered one line from their past five, and that was only by 3.5 points. The Crows are 3-2 against the line in that time.
Adelaide +8.5

Collingwood are 4-0 at the line over the past month, while the Dockers are 2-2
Collingwood -5.5

AFL Line Ladder: Round 13

As predicted, the big head start for Collingwood was definitely too generous. While coach Nathan Buckley is out, the Pies are the form team of the competition when it comes to betting at the line. After missing seven straight times between Rounds 3 and 9, Collingwood have beaten the market in their past four matches. This culminated in their big win over the Dees on Monday, when they were afforded a 28.5 point head start and won by 17 points.

The biggest shock came in the Sydney vs Hawthorn match, with the Hawks given a 28.5 point head start and winning by 38! It was the first time in nine weeks that the Hawks have covered, so we’ll wait to see if there’s actually any trend or if this was a one-off. For this week, the Hawks currently have a 10.5 point head start against Essendon with TopSport.

AFL Line Ladder: Round 12

We enter the period of byes and split rounds, so are dealing with clubs having played different numbers of games. In short, the market was way off on the weekend… the closest any line was to the actual result was 11.5 points, with the Bulldogs give a 16.5 hurdle against Fremantle, and running out 28 point winners.

The Bulldogs are actually on a pretty good run – they’ve covered three of their last four lines, with the only lapse being against a rampaging Melbourne. The Dees, for their part, are back in form with two straight convincing line covers. On the weekend they were actually 4.5 point underdogs against Brisbane, yet ran out 22-point winners. This week’s equation is reasonably complicated… they face Collingwood, and have been handed a fairly steep 31.5 hurdle to clear (current line at TopSport) against a Pies team that have covered their last three lines. A bit generous for Collingwood… ?

AFL Line Ladder: Round 11

We sung the praises of Essendon last week, who produced yet another high-quality performance and an easy cover of their +26.5 point line against West Coast. It pushed them further up the line ladder and further cemented their credentials as a friend of the punter! They have a +12.5 line against Richmond with TopSport this week.

Another club to keep an eye on is the Gold Coast Suns. While they sit in 14th on the league ladder, their big win over Hawthorn has pushed them up to fifth on the line ladder with a 6-5 record. They put in a very poor performance against Brisbane a couple of weeks ago, but that aside they’ve been very competitive against the line and covered comfortably on a number of occasions.

AFL Line Ladder: Round 10

Keep your eye on the Bombers, who smashed their line by 50 points against North Melbourne and remain on the up. They maintain the biggest positive difference between their line ladder (4th) and league ladder (11th). All signs are that the market hasn’t caught them yet, and they have another potentially generous line this week… you can get them at +26.5 points against West Coast with TopSport.

At the other end of the spectrum is Geelong. They’re getting the job done on a head-to-head basis, but are just 3-7 at the line this year… and missed again at the weekend against Gold Coast. They’ve been given a 25.5 point hurdle this week against Collingwood, who just covered their line for the first time in eight weeks.

AFL Line Ladder: Round 9

There’s no doubt North Melbourne are much improved compared to where they were at the start of the season – and that’s reflected on the line ladder. After missing five of their first six lines, the Roos have now covered three in a row and are up to 13th. They went into their clash with Hawthorn as 21.5 point underdogs – which certainly seems generous in hindsight (how good is hindsight?) – and recorded a seven point win.

Another interesting team is the Bombers. They have the highest differential in the league in terms of line ladder position versus league ladder position. They’re 5-4 at the line, which might not sound too impressive, but they sit 12th on the league ladder and have a positive net 100.5 point variance to the line across the season. That has them knocking on the front door of Top 4 on the line ladder.

The two clubs clash this week. At the moment the line at TopSport is 22.5 points in favour of the Bombers. It’s almost identical to what the Roos faced last week against Hawthorn. Will we see a similar result? It’s a fascinating matchup…

AFL Line Ladder: Round 8

After six straight covers to start the season, it looks like the market has finally caught up to Melbourne, who’ve now fallen short of their line in two consecutive matches by 27.5 and 13.5 points. This week the Dees have Carlton and a 21.5  point hurdle to clear. The market has been pretty good on the Blues this year, who are 5-3 at the line with a net points difference of just eight points across eight games.

One team the market absolutely cannot get a line on is the reigning premiers Richmond. Their last six performances against the line read like this: -75.5, +8.5, +70.5, -40.5, +33.5, -68.5. This week they have an 11.5 point hurdle against them. though Richmond’s recent form suggests that’ll be a blowout – just don’t ask us which way!

AFL Line Ladder: Round 7

What a horror week for the AFL betting market! The closing lines set by the market were well off in all nine games… in fact the closest was 11.5 points, with Carlton taking in a 4.5 point hurdle and winning by 16 points. The cumulative gap between the actual margin and the line for the week was 343.5 points… so on average, line were off by 38 points or more than six goals per game! Amazing.

Among it all Melbourne missed their line for the first time this year, being set a 57.5 margin against North and only winning by 30. That also meant that North covered their second line in three weeks after not getting close in the first four rounds… a good sign that the “bet against North” party might be largely over.

Does that mean it’s time to flip things over and back North at the line? Interestingly, their current mark for Round 8 is +23.5 points… and their opponent, Collingwood, sit dead last on the line ladder with just one cover all year.

AFL Line Ladder: Round 6

Geelong finally cover a line… and didn’t they do it with a bang! Their closing line of -18.5 might have seemed a bit generous given they hadn’t covered a line all year. Their response? They smashed the pathetic Eagles by 97 points!

Up the top Melbourne continued on their merry way, rewarding their backers with a 34 point win and making a mockery of their 6.5 point underdog rating. You’d be brave to back against them this week against North, even with the 57.5 point quote.

An interesting match this week is Collingwood versus Gold Coast. You can currently get +13.5 points for Suns, who are 3-3 at the line this year and coming off a big 40-point win. The Pies are 1-5 at the line, with their only cover coming back in Round 2…

AFL Line Ladder: Round 5

Geelong and Melbourne are focus again this week. The market just keeps getting them wrong… underrating Melbourne to about the same extent as it overrates Geelong.

Melbourne are 5-0 at the line, covering by a total of 103.5 points. Geelong are 0-5, with an aggregate of -113.5.

On the weekend, Melbourne were given a 21.5 point hurdle against Hawthorn. They smashed the Hawks by 50.

Geelong were handed a massive 56.5 point line against the hapless North Melbourne, but could “only” win by 30.

So to this week… Geelong are currently 11.5 point favorites against the Eagles (3-2 at the line this season), while Melbourne have a 5.5 head start against Richmond (2-3 at the line this season).

Opportunities? Perhaps…

AFL Line Ladder: Round 4

The market has reeled the Swans in… and comfortably. After smashing their first three lines of the season, they were set an ambitious 27.5 hurdle against Essendon, only to sneak in with a three point win.

That leaves Melbourne as the only remaining team to have covered every line this season. They again did it comfortably, given a hurdle of 1.5 points against the Cats and winning by 25 points.

Speaking of Geelong… you’re battling this season if you’re backing them. They’re falling well short of expectations in 2021 and are yet to cover a line… or even get close, really. They join a hapless North Melbourne at the bottom, whose 14.5 point head start against Adelaide was ultimately not near enough.

AFL Line Ladder: Round 3

We’ve got a bit of data now that we’re three rounds in… but there’s certainly no surprises at either end of the line ladder.

The Swans have taken everybody by surprise and that includes the betting market, smashing their three lines by a combined 140.5 points. Their most impressive performance was, of course, against Richmond on the weekend, where they were handed a five-goal headstart… only to salute by 45 points

At the bottom… North Melbourne are an obvious avoid for punters. The Roos were already struggling to get near their lines, only for them to suffer their 128-point belting on Good Friday.

AFL Line Ladder: Round 1

Just the one round down and given the results we saw, no major surprises on the AFL Line Ladder. The two big upset winners of the week, Brisbane and Sydney, reign supreme at the top. The Swans were installed 24.5 point underdogs yet won by 31 points, while Adelaide beat Geelong by 12 points when the market figured they’d lose by 28!

Of the more fancied teams, Port Adelaide looked ominous. The market made them 32.5 point favorites, only for them to run out by 52 points.

AFL Line Ladder: Round 17

The home and away season is done…

So what did we learn?

When looking at the final Line Ladder below, the first thing that strikes us is the absolute evenness of it! There’s no tearaway leaders, and things evened up at the bottom as well. With 17 rounds completed, we finished with six teams on 10 covers. Following that was another six teams just one game back on nine covers, Brisbane on eight covers, two teams with seven, two with six and, finally, Adelaide on five covers.

Betting-wise, it was an extremely even season and overall, the market did a good job of predicting most teams.

There are some outliers, of course. Perhaps the biggest one is Brisbane. Despite finishing second on the AFL ladder, they were way down in 13th on the Line Ladder, covering 8 of 17 games. The other is Fremantle, which covered 10 times to finish third… yet were 12th on the AFL ladder.

Though it was close overall, 12 of the 18 clubs finished the season with a positive record against the line. Largely, this was allowed by the performance of the three bottom sides: Adelaide (five covers), Hawthorn (six) and North Melbourne (six). It was clear from early in the season that these clubs weren’t meeting pre-season expectations, however the market took far too long to catch up to just how poorly they were going. So there was value in betting against them.

We’ve spoken about this phenomenon plenty of times when discussing the line ladder. Though some teams perform much worse (Hawthorn, Adelaide, North Melbourne) or much better (St Kilda, Fremantle) than predicted pre-season, those early thoughts remain somewhat ‘baked-in’ to betting lines, which simply don’t react quickly enough. What does that tell us? Pay special attention to very current formlines… that can yield great results.

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