WITH a short season and four new sides, the ladder over the opening portion of the season doesn't necessarily tell the whole story of where teams sit. Tiers of clubs are emerging, with a clear leading pack, while the middle group of teams could do anything in the back half of the season.
This is an attempt to place a subjective value on the wins and losses (and draws) each club has notched up over the opening five rounds to figure out just who the strongest teams are this season.
1. Brisbane - 1st on ladder, 4 wins, 1 loss, 278.2%
The Lions might have suffered their first loss of the season on the weekend, but they still comfortably look to be the best side in the competition. Likely to regain both Jesse Wardlaw and star defender Kate Lutkins, Brisbane will only get stronger in the second half of the season.
2. Melbourne - 4th on ladder, 4 wins, 1 loss, 160.8%
The Demons sit fourth on the ladder on percentage, but have beaten fellow contenders Adelaide and North Melbourne, with their only loss coming against the Lions in round four. Melbourne's strong but unassuming midfield is where they have been able to really hurt other sides and allows them to match it with the best.
3. Adelaide - 2nd on ladder, 4 wins, 1 loss, 201.9%
A record-breaking win on Sunday has seen the Crows' percentage grow significantly, but their other wins so far this season have been much narrower and relied on final-quarter bursts to get over the line. Adelaide will no doubt feature deep into finals.
4. North Melbourne - 7th on ladder, 3 wins, 2 losses, 132.5%
The Roos might have only won three games, but their losses have come against last season's grand finalists Adelaide and Melbourne. A strong, hard-fought win over the Western Bulldogs on Friday has set them up for a solid run toward finals, and star Jasmine Garner is in fine form.
5. Collingwood - 3rd on ladder, 4 wins, 1 loss, 172.8%
Collingwood's only loss has come against Adelaide, but outside of that they have had a reasonably easy run against Carlton, Geelong and expansion sides Sydney and Essendon. The Magpies' fixture becomes trickier in the coming weeks, with North Melbourne and Brisbane still to come.
6. Western Bulldogs - 5th on ladder, 4 wins, 1 loss, 138.9%
The Dogs won their first four games, which included two expansion sides in Port Adelaide and Hawthorn. Against a tougher North Melbourne outfit, however, they were exposed a little and will need to find a way to play their brand of footy against the better sides.
8. Geelong - 6th on ladder, 3 wins, 2 losses, 184.2%
Geelong's win over the Saints proved it does have the capacity to score but needs to prove it can find that attack against stronger sides. Games coming against the Bulldogs and Adelaide will be the real test for the Cats and dictate their finals credentials.
9. Richmond - 8th on ladder, 3 wins, 2 losses, 128.6%
Can the Tigers' upset win over Brisbane launch them into finals contention? There is no reason to think it can't. Richmond has found a way to win even when key players aren't on the park, which puts it in good stead for a top eight spot come round ten.
9. Essendon - 10th on ladder, 2 wins, 3 losses, 144.1%
The best expansion side of the season to date, Essendon's powerful forward line has really turned heads. The Bombers have, however, struggled slightly against stronger defensive units like Collingwood and Richmond, and they now face Brisbane's premiership-winning backline with the potential inclusion of Kate Lutkins.
10. Fremantle - 15th on ladder, 1 win, 3 losses, 1 draw, 58.6%
It may seem like the Dockers are a little high, but they have once again found their brand and ground out a win over the much-improved Eagles, a win that is worth more than many believe it to be. Hayley Miller and Kiara Bowers being back to their damaging best means high hopes for the rest of Fremantle's season.
11. Gold Coast - 9th on ladder, 3 wins, 2 losses, 80.6%
When at their best the Suns can challenge any side, but they are yet to find real consistency from week to week and have been exposed by the upper echelon of teams. They still must face Richmond and Melbourne heading toward the end of the season, so may have a couple of stumbles.
12. Carlton - 12th on ladder, 1 win, 2 losses, 2 draws, 66.5%
The Blues were already up against it as they looked to develop a refreshed, young list, but now with significant injury concerns life gets even harder. Working in their favour is a reasonable run home, so if they can bag a couple of wins they will be well positioned to launch into next season.
13. West Coast - 13th on ladder, 2 wins, 3 losses, 64.4%
West Coast has shown significant growth this season after big changes during the off season that are paying off. They do, however, have the toughest final months to close out the season, with Richmond, Geelong, the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne to come.
14. Port Adelaide - 14th on ladder, 1 win, 3 losses, 1 draw, 114.7%
A side that has been impressive in its first five weeks, Port Adelaide has struggled a little with consistency which is unsurprising given the youth it boasts. That consistency will throw up some tough games in the back half of the season.
15. St Kilda - 11th on ladder, 2 wins, 3 losses, 95.9%
After a bright start and two big wins against expansion sides, the Saints have been found wanting against tougher opponents. Granted, they have had to work through some injury concerns, which only grow larger after last week's loss to Geelong, but they look likely to drop a few more ladder places before the season's end.
16. Greater Western Sydney - 16th on ladder, 1 win, 4 losses, 54%
Just when it looked like a new side would emerge, injuries and some poor showings have dropped the Giants back down the ladder. A record-breaking loss to Adelaide on Sunday has lowered their percentage by a massive 45 per cent.
17. Hawthorn - 17th on ladder, 1 win, 4 losses, 38.6%
A new side packed with young talent, Hawthorn claimed its first win over fellow newbies Sydney last week. While there is plenty to be excited about, the Hawks have found it hard to score against more established sides.
18. Sydney - 18th on ladder, 0 wins, 5 losses, 34.2%
The only remaining winless team. Sydney has started most games brightly, able to score in opening quarters, but the Swans simply have not been able to carry that momentum through the four quarters and ultimately been beaten each week because of that.