WHEN Collingwood and North Melbourne assess their respective fortunes at the end of 2016, injuries will play a big role in the off-season post-mortems.
On pure numbers, the Magpies have a case that no team has been hit harder, with more games lost to injury than any other club and an early-season barrage preventing any momentum from forming.
But the timing and nature of the Kangaroos' recent woes has been particularly cruel, with a spate of setbacks playing a key role in their rapid drop from first to eighth on the ladder.
An injury ladder developed for AFL.com.au sheds light on the teams that have been cruelled and those that have escaped relatively unscathed.
And using the Schick AFL Player Ratings, Champion Data is able to highlight the talent 'cost' of every injury.
The Magpies have not only lost more games to injury this year than any other club, but the 'cost' of those injuries has been higher than every club except Fremantle – the other club with claims as the hardest hit.
The 'cost' of an injury is the difference between that player's Player Ratings average and that of the next best available player who is outside the team and plays in the same position.
As an example, injured Dockers star Nat Fyfe averages 18.9 points a game and Freo's next best midfielder not in its 22 is Tendai Mzungu, who averages 6.9 points a game.
The 'cost' to the Dockers in that particular week is therefore 12 points.
If there are 22 available players who average more Player Ratings points than the injured player, there is no cost to that injury.
Champion Data also increases the cost slightly if there are no available players in the same position available for selection.
When the total cost of every injury this season is added up, Fremantle comes out well ahead of the competition with 431 points.
Collingwood ranks No.2 with 263 points, while Hawthorn (253) and the Brisbane Lions (234) round out the top four after 16 rounds.
Gold Coast is notable for its games lost – ranked No.2 with 126 games – but the talent cost (179 points) has not been as significant. It will likely soar now that Gary Ablett has been ruled out for the final seven rounds.
At the other end of the ladder, Adelaide has enjoyed a blessed run, losing just 36 points in total at the selection table because of injury.
Melbourne (59 points), St Kilda (66), Carlton (81) and West Coast (85) have also enjoyed a good injury run.
The injury ladder
|Club||Games lost (rank)||Total cost (points)||Rank|
|Brisbane Lions||87 (7)||234||4|
|Gold Coast||126 (2)||179||6|
|Western Bulldogs||99 (4)||174||8|
|Sydney Swans||68 (13)||155||9|
|Port Adelaide||64 (14)||150||10|
|North Melbourne||71 (10)||89||13|
|West Coast||53 (17)||85||14|
|St Kilda||36 (18)||66||16|
Another layer to the injury ladder is in-game injuries, which play a key role in results and have particularly cruelled North Melbourne in its four-week fall from first to eighth.
It's been the quickest such fall since Port Adelaide went from first to 10th in mid-2007, and in-game setbacks have had an undeniable impact.
Starting against Geelong in round 12, the Kangaroos have suffered 11 in-game injuries, with five of those ending a player's day prematurely – Andrew Swallow (concussion), Ben Cunnington (corked thigh), Luke McDonald (hamstring) and Farren Ray (concussion and hamstring).
Over the course of the season, no team has finished a game at least one player down more often than the Kangaroos, who have suffered game-ending injuries in all but five games.
Adelaide, again, has enjoyed the best run, equal with West Coast in suffering just one game-ending injury in 15 matches.
How each club fares with in-game injuries
|AVAILABLE PLAYERS AT END OF GAME|