The gap is significant against Geelong, Gold Coast and West Coast, as for the Richmond and St. Kilda it's much closer but we're still ahead I believe.You are probably right that we are a level above those teams but I am not sure how significant that gap is.
You yourself pointed out that we had the least disposals in the competition this year, and if you were to evaluate our wins you could probably argue that Ellie dragged us over the line in just about all of them.
I think our kicking efficiency was far improved this year and of the games you mentioned, we had 1 more scoring shot than St.Kilda and 1 less than North. Meanwhile Melbourne had twice as many scoring shots as us and managed to lose - so I don't think efficiency was a huge factor in our ladder position.
Richmond really started to click in the second part of this year and St.Kilda beat us. Geelong had their best mid out all year and their second best out for half. Imagine how we would perform without Lamb and Blackburn.
As far as the interstate teams go they can only really be as talented as their draft zone allows so loading them up with additional picks isn't really going to help them out.
I take your point on the fixturing and player movement in these foundation years, but I just wish there was more transparency when the AFL made decisions that advantage some clubs at the expense of others - or just more transparency on everything to be honest. It always feels like they are operating in the shadows.
Richmond for example played the 3 bottoms team, while we had only played 1 of them.
You're right that for the H&A season we were ranked 14th in both disposals and clearances this year but we still managed to generate shots regularly with a total of 107, North who finished in the 6 only had 11 more with 118.
Even though we ranked 14th for clearances, we ranked 3rd for scores from stoppages which just shows how effective those clearances were and how effective our forward line can be.
Our goal accuracy was above average for the season and again you're right we should've lost the Melbourne game as they had 16 shots to our 9, but in our losses we were significantly less accurate and it cost us the Saints and North game.
R1 - Lossed by 9
WB: 46% (13 shots, 6 goals, 5 kicked behinds, 2 no scores, 1 rushed behind)
SK: 57% (14 shots, 8 goals, 2 kicked behinds, 4 no scores, 1 rushed behind)
R6 - Lossed by 36
WB: 22% (9 shots, 2 goals, 3 kicked behinds, 4 no scores, 0 rushed behinds)
CO: 28% (25 shots, 7 goals, 8 kicked behinds, 10 no scores, 1 rushed behind)
R7 - Lossed by 11
WB: 23% (13 shots, 3 goals, 5 kicked behinds, 5 no scores, 3 rushed behinds)
NM: 42% (12 shots, 5 goals, 7 kicked behinds, 0 no scores, 0 rushed behinds)
R8 - Lossed by 56
WB: 33% (9 shots, 3 goals, 4 kicked behinds, 2 no scores, 0 rushed behinds)
AD: 60% (20 shots, 12 goals, 4 kicked behinds, 4 no scores, 2 rushed behinds)
We consistently fielded the youngest team of the round and in R8 we fielded 8 teenagers (33% of the total teenagers playing that round). I think it's pretty clear that we want to build our future around the current crop and from what the club said after the season we want to bring in 1-3 more experienced players.
Hopefully we can get the Bennetts deal done next week and if something else pops up great but if not that's ok too and we go the draft where there will be plenty of experienced and or older players as well.
Honestly I'd be throwing everything to try and get Georgia Nanscawen from Essendon. She only played the 2 games or North in 2019 but has exploded at VFLW since playing for Essendon in 2019. She's averaging 23 disposals, 6 clearances, 4 inside 50s and 164 ranking points this year and would fit perfectly in our midfield.
But I do agree the AFL needs to be much more transparent and stop these spur of the moment decisions.