Why AFL Wide Bay minor premier Bombers are flag favourites
AUSSIE RULES: Hervey Bay Bombers finished the AFL Wide Bay regular season as minor premiers and will complete the mission by winning the flag at their home ground on Saturday, September 1.
Bombers coach Darren Hunter and his men would be the first to laugh off the suggestion and point to today's qualification final as the first in a number of jobs Hervey Bay have to complete before that happens, but an analysis of AFL Wide Bay data suggests the Bombers are the best-placed side to win the big one.
The Bombers finished the season as the competition's best defenders, second-best in total attack, most goals, best goals-to-behinds ratio, best percentage, and, of course, the equal best win record (13-5, along with today's opponents Gympie and Bay Power).
"Our numbers stack up," Hunter said. "You have to look at how the season has rolled on. We shouldn't have lost the way we did two weeks ago (a 40-point loss to Gympie), but we're going well."
They kicked more than 100 points 10 times, conceded 100 or more points just once, kicked more than 10 goals 15 times (equal with Gympie and the Power), and kicked 20 goals in five separate games.
When analysing games involving only the top four, the Bombers' class shines.
In 11 games against top four teams, they scored 100 or more points on four occasions, boasted an attacking average of 86.36 per game, kicked 12.81 goals per game, conceded more than 90 points just once, and finished with a defensive average of 69.18.
When all 11 results are analysed, the Bombers boast an average margin of +17.18 points - more than twice that of nearest rival Bay Power (+8.7 points) and Gympie (+6.9 points) - and a winning rate of 63.64% (seven wins from 11 games).
"All year's hard work has paid off, but now we can draw a line under the season and get ready for a new three-week season," Hunter said.
Bombers fans can't quite dust off the trophy cabinet just yet. While the data is kind to Hervey Bay, it also shows just how close the Cats are, and suggests today's qualifying final could go down to the wire.
The Cats come close in several departments, though they and the Power played only 10 games against top four teams.
In those encounters, Gympie's attacking average is slightly better at 86.4 points per game, though the average number of goals kicked is slightly less (12.6 per game).
Overall, Gympie finished with the best attack, the highest number of scoring shots (goals and behinds combined), and remain the only team to have beaten the minor premier Bombers twice this year - both times at grand final host, Norm McLean Oval, Torquay.
"We're quietly confident," Hunter said. "I'm feeling a lot better this year than I did in 2016 (when Bombers fell to Bay Power in the preliminary final). Our guys are a lot more experienced, they've matured and they're playing really well. If it doesn't work out (today) we do have that second chance."