It can be a cruel game, AFL footy.

North Melbourne, currently languishing in second-last position on the ladder, have a 0-5 record in games decided by less than six points. If the Roos had kicked an extra goal in each of those five games they’d be equal fourth and entrenched in the top eight.

The number of games won perhaps isn’t the true indicator of how competitive North has been in 2017, further demonstrated by their 12th ranking for time in front in 2017.

The time in front ladder makes for some interesting reading. Of course, it is easiest to get a lead early in the game when scores are closest, so quick starters are rewarded on this ranking.

The Western Bulldogs are having a disappointing premiership defence and their 17th ranking for time in front only reinforces just how underwhelming Luke Beveridge’s team has been. It backs up that not only have the Dogs been slow starters (they’re ranked 17th for winning first quarters), but that they’ve also pinched some close games when they’ve been behind (they’re 3-1 in games decided by less than a goal).

Essendon, on the other hand, are the best first quarter team in the AFL and therefore are much higher on the time in front ladder than the actual ladder. They’re also 1-5 in games decided by less than three goals, so they’ve been in front of some games that they could  have won (Sydney, Brisbane?).