AFL finals theory – pattern or coincidence?

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Some of you will believe the following theory is complete rubbish – and to be honest, I don’t know if it’s a legitimate theory yet either. Either way, it’s an interesting observation.

The theory goes something like this: a team has a breakout year and finishes in the final four. The team then has two poorer years before becoming a premiership winner/serious contender in the fourth year.

Geelong, Collingwood and Hawthorn have all followed this theory, with Geelong’s breakout year being 2004, Collingwood’s in 2007 and Hawthorn’s in 2008 (being a slight exception, in that they managed to win the flag in their breakout year).

Geelong finished fourth in 2004, breaking out after having finished 12th, 9th and 12th in their previous three seasons. This was followed by finishing fifth in 2005 before slumping to 10th in 2006. They then of course went onto win the flag in impressive style in 2007.

While Geelong were charging to the premiership, Collingwood had their own breakout year, when they came within five points of Geelong in the preliminary final. They then finished eighth in 2008 and fourth in 2009 before winning the flag in 2010.

Hawthorn of course won the premiership in their breakout year of 2008, then finished ninth in 2009 and seventh in 2010 before returning to be a premiership contender in 2011 when they finished third, and could’ve gone further if it hadn’t been for a last-quarter fade.

Even Adelaide has followed a similar trend, with a fifth-placed finish in 2009 before finishing 11th and 14th respectively in 2010 and 2011. Of course we all know about their success this year, and it’s now fair to say they are premiership contenders.

So is there any pattern to this, or is it just chance?

Could it be the trend of player development in the AFL? Could it be the psychological effect of taking on your first finals series, before using the experience in later years when you return?

In any case, it will be curious to see how clubs such as West Coast (breakout year last year) go with the theory.

Footy goes above and beyond

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