THIS is the type of Port Adelaide campaign that will guarantee coach Ken Hinkley a new contract.
Five analytics gurus teamed up in the shutdown period to create 'Virtually Season 2020' on Max Barry's AFL prediction and analysis website Squiggle – and the results are fantastic for the Power.
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Hinkley's men are the sole unbeaten team in the virtual competition through nine rounds, with a percentage of 133.6.
Fremantle (fourth), Sydney (sixth), Adelaide (eighth) and West Coast (11th) are among the other surprises, while Richmond and Collingwood round out the top three and winless Gold Coast is last.
Squiggle is usually a platform for statistical experts to use their 'models' to tip every game of each round against one another for bragging rights, so this virtual season is an extension of that.
One of the experts is Darren O'Shaughnessy, who worked at Hawthorn during its flag three-peat and has since crossed to St Kilda.
Round 9, Virtually Season 2020. Just two H&A rounds left! In order to finish before actual football content arrives, we’ll play to R11 and then do finals compressed into a week. pic.twitter.com/L1g7NT3THG— Max Barry (@SquiggleAFL) May 17, 2020
"I just couldn't face the prospect of going for a couple of months with no football, after we'd gotten so close and played round one," Barry told AFL.com.au.
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"Then to have nothing for that period of time; I felt like we had the opportunity to step in, as guys who were simulating it all the time. Why not give it a shot?"
The virtual side of things effectively kicked off from round two of the AFL's original fixture and has played out each week since.
Fans of the concept tune in on squiggle.com.au or follow @squiggleAFL on Twitter to track the games live as they simulate, including score worms and even individual goalkickers.
In a quirk, Brisbane's Eric Hipwood leads the Coleman Medal race with a meagre 18 goals, in part due to a 'bug' that, until fixed, was gifting each club's second goalkicker scores that were supposed to go to the No.1 man.
With order restored, Sydney champion Lance Franklin bagged six goals against his old club Hawthorn last week but they weren't enough to spare the Swans from an 11-point defeat.
@SquiggleAFL Virtual Coleman Round 9:— Stattraction (@Stattraction) May 18, 2020
18 Hipwood (1)
17 Bruce (2)
16 Gunston (1), Larkey (3), M McGovern (1), Mihocek (3), Papley (0), Riewoldt (2)
15 Breust (1), M Cox (2), Finlayson (0), Liam Ryan (0)
4+ goal kickers:
5 Jarrod Cameron
The five models, one of which is randomly selected per round, factor in the shortened quarters but have their own nuances.
Barry's version prioritises results from the previous two years – the evidence suggests anything before that "doesn't really make any difference" – and playing venues but goes much deeper.
In basic terms, the model spits out the percentage likelihood of one team winning over another but even then the favourites don't always win.
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"Sydney did pretty well in round two – they defeated Essendon 85-53 – so after that all the models go, 'OK, Sydney are a little bit better than we expected', so they're even more likely to do better the next week," Barry said.
"Now we're at round nine and occasionally on Twitter there are people complaining, 'How come Freo are doing so well?' but they're applying their pre-season idea about how good Freo are, whereas we're nine rounds in now.
"People need to accept that Freo's actually a decent team (in this virtual season)."
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Barry, a science fiction novelist by trade, said his model was also forgiving of one-off poor performances.
The AFL's announcement of the real season resumption on June 11 has impacted Squiggle's virtual world.
There will be only two more rounds before finals, with the usual month-long series being compressed into an action-packed virtual week that climaxes with the Grand Final on June 10.
So can Port Adelaide go all the way?
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"I think Port are a result of what happens when we don't model the psychological pressure of doing really well," Barry said.
"In real life, Port seem to go back and forth, where as soon as people expect them to do well, they collapse in a heap, then when the pressure's off they look like champions.
"So maybe without that, they're a nine-zip team."
You can follow the five 'Virtually Season 2020' contributors on Twitter at @SquiggleAFL, @Stattraction, @fuzzybluerain, @aflalytics and @AflLadder